Listen as former curator David Whitehouse describes this elaborate mosaic glass tabletop. The tabletop was submitted by the papal government to the Paris Exposition Universelle, in 1867. It consists of a large disk of white marble, inlaid in the pietra dura technique. The more than 2,000 glass pieces include about 320 types of Hellenistic and Roman mosaic glass dating from about 100 B.C. to A.D. 50.
The ancient pieces are combined with 19th-century monochrome glass from Venetian suppliers. The tabletop is attributed to Giovanni Rossignani, a Roman craftsman who worked for the Vatican Mosaic Workshops in the mid-19th century. The catalog of the 1867 exhibition comments on the artist’s ingenuity in reheating and flattening the ancient vessel fragments for use in this technically complicated design.