The Gibbes Museum of Art last week announced their newest special exhibition will be A Return to the Grand Tour: Micromosaic Jewels from the Collection of Elizabeth Locke. This exhibition consists of 92 brilliant examples of micromosaics from the private collection of jeweler Elizabeth Locke. These precious souvenirs were designed for Grand Tour travelers of the mid-18th to late-19th centuries. A Return to the Grand Tour will be on display in the museum’s Gallery 9 from January 17 – May 3, 2020.
“This exhibition is a fascinating juxtaposition of antique and modern craftsmanship enabling a lost art to come to life once again,” said Angela Mack, executive director of the Gibbes Museum of Art. “These pieces are meant to evoke the memory of a special experience, and we hope that guests who come and see this exhibition will have a similar response.”
Now a lost artform, micromosaics were once popular mementos made into jewelry, boxes and paper weights, and sold to travelers on their Grand Tour, a travel phenomenon that became part of the social fabric of aristocratic Europe in the late 18 and 19th centuries. The delicate jewels passed out of fashion toward the end of the 19th century. Acclaimed jewelry designer Elizabeth Locke first became fascinated with micromosaics when she lived in Florence, Italy. Years after her sojourn in Florence, Locke rediscovered micromosaics at the Portobello market in London. She purchased her first one in 1989—a small rectangle of the Temple of Vesta—and re-set it in her distinctive neoclassical style using hand-hammered 19K gold and cabochon stones. From there her collection grew and now features more than a hundred micromosaics, most of which have been mounted as precious jewels. Some, still in their original packaging, show how they were presented to Grand Tour travelers.
To coincide with the opening of the exhibition, the Gibbes will bring together experts, scholars and the collector herself to discuss the Grand Tour of the nineteenth century and the era’s fascination with the classics and societal requisite travel to the “cradle of western civilization.” The symposium will feature jewelry designer and collector Elizabeth Locke, Associate Curator of American Painting and Decorative Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Susan Rawles and Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Gibbes Museum of Art, Angela D. Mack. A Return to the Grand Tour Symposium will be held on January 17, 2020 from 10 am – 1:30 pm. For admission and information, click here.
For further information on the exhibition, visit the official website.