The Ancient Library

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On this page: Mosaics (continued)



and 3). In the mosaic itself the lower border represents a river, apparently the Nile, with a crocodile, hippopotamus, ich­neumon, ibis, etc., thus confirming the con­jecture as to the Egyptian origin of the design.

Mosaics bearing the artist's name are seldom found. The two finest of this class are those from Pompeii inscribed with the name of Dioscortdes of Sainos. One of these represents four masked figures play­ing on various instruments. The work is composed of very small pieces of glass, of the most beautiful colours and in various shades (cut in Dyer's Pompeii, p. 276). Another of similar construction portrays a rehearsal for a satyric drama. The ground is black, the drapery mainly white, but the robe of the flute-player is bordered with purple, the lips are a bright red, and the flutes and ornaments coloured like gold. (See drama, fig. 2.) The finest mosaic of the early part of the 2nd century a.d. is the highly pictorial centaur-mosaic now at Berlin, found at the Villa of Hadrian (see Baumeister's Denkmaler, fig. 941). The most celebrated works of a later date in­clude that in the Thermce of Caracalla, with numerous gladiatorial figures of colossal size and ungraceful drawing (ib. fig. 174); and that of the Roman villa at Nennig, near Treves. The dimensions of the latter are 50 feet by 33, and the design includes several groups of figures inclosed in a square or hexagonal framework of tesse-lated marble (ib. figs. 1001-2343). Among the mosaics in the British Museum are an Amphitrite and Tritons, with Dionysus, Meleager, and Atalanta, all from Halicar-nassus, and of Roman times, since figures of Dido and J3neas were found in the same villa (Newton's Travels and Discoveries, ii 76). As mosaics still in situ in England may be mentioned those at Woodchester, Bignor, and Brading.1 In the " Gallery of the Architectural Court" of the South Ken­sington Museum are exhibited 100 coloured plates, with copies of mosaics, collected by Dr. R. Wollaston, including a Greek mosaic of Iphigenla at Aulis, found in the Crimea, and the above-mentioned mosaic of Praeneste (no. 167).

Mosaic pavements are known by different names descriptive of certain varieties of structure. (1) A pdvimentum scc.tlle is composed of thin plates of coloured marble of various sizes, cut (s-'cta} into slices of

1 Cp. Morgan's Komano-British Mosaic Pave­ments, 1886.

regular form and arranged in an ornamental geometrical pattern including triangles, hexagons, etc. (Vitruvius, vii 1, 3, 4; Sue­tonius, C&sar, 46 at end). (2) The epithet tessellatum describes a pavement of the

j same general kind, but made up of regular square dies (tessera;, tesselltx, tessirfdce), forming rectangular designs (ib.). (3) Ver-mlnilatum is applied to a design formed of small pieces of marble in various colours, arranged so as to imitate the object repre-

| sented with a high degree of pictorial

: effect. The dies are of different shapes, so as to allow of their following the wavy

I contours of the outline of the object. The name is derived from the fact that the gene­ral effect of such an arrangement resembles the contortions of a cluster of worms (verme's). (Cp. Pliny, xxxv 2: Interraso niarmore vermiciiUitisque ad tffiffies rerun* crustis; and Lucilius, quoted in Cicero's Orator, 149: Quant lepide lexeis compostw ut tcsserulce omnes—arte pavimento atquc einblemate venniculato.) (4) The term lltho-strotum (Varro, R. R., iii 2 § 4; 1 § 10; Pliny, xxxvi 189) was probably applied to a pavement made of small pieces of stone or marble of natural colours, and distin­guished from those of coloured glass or some other artificial composition. Mosaics of glass were used to decorate ceilings (Pliny, I.e.).

The gilt tesserae used in Christian mosaics for the background of the pictures were formed by applying to a cube of earthenware two thin plates of glass with a film of gold-leaf between them, and vitri­fying the whole in a furnace. It was this discovery that led to the extensive applica­tion of mosaic for the decoration of the walls, and more particularly the apses, of Christian

! churches. At Rome, we have mosaics of the 4th century in the churches of S. Constantia and S. Maria Maggiore. At Ravenna, those of the lower part of the Orthodox Baptistery belong to 430 a.d. ; those in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia to 440; those in the domes of the Orthodox and Arian Baptisteries to about 553 ; those of San Vitale to 547; of S. Apollinare Nuovo to 549, and of the archiepiscopal palace to about the same date; and, lastly, those of S. Apollinare in Classe to about 671-677. At Milan, the mosaics of S. Lorenzo and S. Ambrogio be­long to the 5th century ; those of S. Parenzo in Istria to the 6th: those of S. Sophia at Constantinople were executed in the time of Justinian (527-5(55). At Rome, those of SS. Cosmas and Dainian are ascribed to.

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