Roman city dig: Mosaic motifs, by Rachel Klaebe


Published on

  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide
  • Image from:
  • Mosaics have been around for over 4,000 years – originally just basic in geometric design, the Greeks expanded and began to depict pictures using coloured pebbles. Mosaics are the art of creating images, used in decorations, as a feature, a floor, demonstrates wealth and status.Tesserae – small cut stones or coloured glass allowed artisans to imitate paintings.The images can be either simplistic – such as a geometric basic diamond pattern, ranging to very detailed images.Peacocks – symbolic of paradise, spring, renewalThe expansion of the Roman empire took mosaics further afield, although the level of skill and artistry was diluted. If you compare mosaics from Roman Britain with Italian ones, you will notice that the British examples are simpler in design and less accomplished in techniques. Typically Roman subjects were scenes celebrating their gods, domestic themes and geometric designs.Info:
  • The Byzantine’s specialised in covering walls and ceilings, as well as using floors to display their mosaics.With the rise of the Byzantine empire, from the 5th Century onwards, centred on Byzantium, the art form took on new characteristics. These included Eastern influences in style and the use of special glass tesserae called smalti – manufactured in northern Italy. These were made from thick sheets of coloured glass. Smalti have a rough surface and contain tiny air bubbles. They are sometimes backed with reflective silver or gold leaf.The smalti were ungrouted allowing light to reflect and refract within the glass. Also, they were set at slight angles to the wall, so that they caught the light in different ways. The gold tesserae sparkle as the viewer moves around the building.Motifs included: Geometric patternsImages of ChristImages of the Emperor JustinianReligious depictions – fablesAnimals - symbolicInfo: from
  • BasilicaEsFornàs de Torrelló - Dated to 6th century ADMosaic presents Geometric motifs that represent birds that are clearly a reference to paradise, two lions facing a palm tree. These have been interpreted as being reminiscent of the Jewish tradition that, at the time, held a lot of importance in Mao. The lions represent the power of death and the palm, the tree of life. Similarly, the grapes that envelop the space where the altar would have been represent life, whilst the peacocks that face these represent the resurrection.Images from and
  • The Basilica at Isla del Rei, in the Mahon harbour in Menorca shows again the tree of life, Christian symbols such as the fish, geometric patterns framing the images, animals.Monastic type of settlement. - from
  • The Basilica at Son Bou on the Southern side of Menorca is located near the sea. Son Bou has not been completely excavated – the Basilica was but no other buildings. It was excavated in the 50’s, and is dated from the 5th – 6th Century AD. Only the basic foundations remain, though 6 tombs were located around it. No mosaic’s poses the question “is this typical of rural Basilica’s?” As the terrain surrounding the Basilica has not been completely excavated it is difficult to say.
  • Currently excavating the Basilica at Sanisera – So far we have the outline of the Basilica, but it also seems to have been reusedNo tesserae have been found What does this mean? – Economy – Was it very limited, with no wealthy patrons to subsidize decorating the church? Fresco’s have been found on the walls of one chamberRural – the fact that 2 Basilica’s have been found near each other precludes that there was a small population here, as well as whether the basilica served as the local church for a region. Two imply that there were quite a number of people here.Trade – The Basilica we are excavating faces East, and overlooks the port or inlet – so for ships arriving, it would have been one of the first things for sailors to see – they could then worship at the local Basilica. Was this basilica then for visiting travellers and the other for the general population?
  • :
  • Roman city dig: Mosaic motifs, by Rachel Klaebe

    1. 1. MOSAIC MOTIFS By Rachel Klaebe Menorca, Session 7, 2012
    2. 2. Mosaics Existed since 3rd Millennium BC Art of creating images Buildings Tesserae – imitate paintings Simplistic to detailed Roman motifs – themes celebrating their gods, domestic themes and geometric designs.
    3. 3. Byzantine Empire Motifs Specialised in covering walls and ceilings  Smalti – special glass tesserae  Motifs included:  Animals – symbolic.  Emperor  Religious images
    4. 4. Es Fornàsde Torrelló, Mahon 6th Century A.D. Nave mosaic still visible today
    5. 5. Isla del Rei, Basilica
    6. 6. Son Bou 5th – 6th Century AD Roman Basilica Only the basic foundations remain.
    7. 7. Basilica at Sanisera? Currently excavating 5th – 6th Century A.D. Mainly lower foundation walls Tesserae found? – No  What does this mean?  Economy – fresco  Rural – 2 located near each other  Position – landmark.
    8. 8. References constantinople/ e-motifs-decorative-arts/ menorca/95/97/231/menorca/prehistory/es-fornas-de-torrello/