The Victoria & Albert Museum
The subject of this stunning early Nineteenth Century micromosaic is a group of doves which is typically known as the Capitoline Doves or Doves of Pliny. These feathered little chaps appear frequently as the subject of micromosaics which replicate a famous Roman floor mosaic discovered in 1737 at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, which, in turn, is believed to be a copy of a lost ancient Greek mosaic at Pergamon. The original floor mosaic is recorded by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, which he completed in 77AD.
Dating between 1800 and 1825, this rectangular Roman micromosaic plaque, from the V&A’s Gilbert Collection, recreates the well-known scene of four doves sitting on the edge of a circular, gold, two-handled basin which, itself, is resting on a square plinth. A border decorated in geometric motifs finishes the scene. Below the bordered picture is an inscription in Latin:
MIRABILIS IBI COLVMBA BIBENS, ET AQVAM VMBRA CAPITIS INFVSCANS. APRICANTVR ALIAE SCABENTES SESE IN CANTHARI LABRO. PLIN.LIB XXXV.CAP X.
A marvellous dove drinking and casting the shadow of its head on the water. Other doves are pluming their feathers in the sun on the lip of a goblet.