Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pompeiian Wall Mosaics (c 100 BCE)

Mosaics, as a term, according to the usual authorities is derived through generations of gradual change from the Greek mouseion, "appertaining to the Muses." In the later Latin there are the terms opus musivum "mosaic work," musivarius, "mosaic worker," but probably the English word "mosaic" is derived immediately from the French mosaique, which with its earlier form mousaique can only be borrowed from the Italian or Provencal and cannot be the descendant of the earlier French form musike. It is, however, questionable if these terms were applied to all the different species of work which may now be classed as "mosaic", and it is probable that they were only properly applied to the products of the worker in opus tessellatum or vermiculatum, formed of small cubes of glass, marble or other material. If we define mosaic as a collocation of pieces of marble, glass, ceramic material, or precious stone embedded in some species of cement so as to form an ornamental entity, we should have to include the opus Alexandrinum, and other ordinary paintings such as were used for the less dignified portions of Roman houses. The term mosaic would also be made to apply to the opus sectile (Vitruvius, VII, i) made of pieces of marble and glass forming geometrical or foliated patterns, each piece being ground exactly to fit into the design or in the case of pictures, ground to make the shapes necessary for the completion of the subject. We also apply the term to the pavement work of later date, like that in St. Mary Major's in Rome, and that in Canterbury Cathedral and in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey in England, as well as to mosaics of a miniature species used for jewellery and small pictures such as the Head of Our Lord which was presented by Pope Sixtus IV to Philip de Croy in 1475 and is now in the Treasury of Sts. Peter and Paul's, Chimay. This latter tradition of work still exists, and every visitor to Rome or southern Italy is acquainted with the cheap but wonderfully executed mosaic jewellery which is sold in most of the shops, and even in the streets of Rome. There is little doubt but that mosaic in jewellery is of considerable Antiquity. - from Malaspina Biography

Books from Alibris: Ancient Mosaics