At the end of the 18th and into the 19th century many ancient Roman sites were excavated, including the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Excavated fragments of mosaic glass such as this, mostly from bowls and dishes, were frequently polished and mounted like precious gems and cameos.
Others were reheated and pressed flat before being cut into panels suitable for mounting into tabletops or smaller objects.
This paperweight is possibly by Francesco Sibilio (1784-1859), a marble craftsman and dealer in Rome catering to the tourist trade. He was the first known craftsman to use fragments of ancient glass as inlays in the manner of specimen marbles.
At a themed Grand Tour sale held by Bonhams (27.5/26/20/14.5% buyer’s premium) on July 14, it was estimated at £1000-1500 but took £11,000.
Leading the decorative arts in this auction at £38,000 was an Italian 19th century ebony collector’s cabinet carrying the maker’s label of Eugenio Argnani (fl.1870-90). It houses 144 different marble and hardstone specimens of undoubtedly earlier date to the cabinet. Most were 18th century, some possibly dated to the ancient Roman era.
Based on the inlaid monogram AC, there is a distinct possibility that this was originally made for Prince Agostino Chigi (1858-96), scion of an old Sienese and Roman banking and merchant family. It was later owned by Eric Charles Sosnow, a Polish journalist and businessman, and was purchased by the present owner in 2019 from a relative.