Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Going back in time

This is my first mosaic using smalti. I made this at a mosaic summer course in Ravenna. The theme is taken from the spectacular mosaics embellishing the walls of the basilica of San Vitale. Everybody has seen the mosaics, dating 6th century, commissioned by Justinian, the Byzantine emperor, considered amongst the most outstanding mosaics of the Byzantine era if not of all eras worldwide.

These are the San Vitale mosaics from which the "doves" theme was taken:

I think that it's a great achievement that in Italy and in Ravenna in particular, there has always been a strong awareness to conserve the mosaics and to promote the art through the Ravenna school, summer courses, cultural events etc. To learn more about Ravenna and courses of mosaic visit:

Parenthesis. To be fair I'll say a word or two for Spilimbergo too. Another great mosaic school in Italy. I would say that Spilimbergo differs basically for its "modern edge". I haven't attended any course there but I remember going there to see an exhibition and I was astounded not just by the creativity and imagination of the artists but for their technique. In mosaics, technique is crucial. Lack of it can "contaminate" someone's talent or ideas. Mosaic is not "straightforward". You don't just take the brush and wherever it takes you. You can't "brush over" mistakes. Mistakes are "forbidden". Not really ...but...imagine trying to extract small stones from hardened cement.
Anyway regarding Spilimbergo: 

Shortly after the course in Ravenna (Lido Adriano to be exact), a private client of high prestige commissioned me to reproduce a mosaic fragment dated 10th century. Click here to go to Benaki museum website “Byzantine Art” Section. You should be able to view the mosaic. Apparently, this fragment is the only mosaic evidence, from the ruins of the Monastery of Stoudios (Μοναστήρι Στουδίου), which historically was the most important monastery of Constantinople.

Here’s the copy I made:

(invisible hook behind the icon) 

Here's an interesting read on Stoudios monastery and Constantinople:
From Athens in Greece let's go to Italy, Bellagio on Lake Como. That stunning little colourful town extremely famous with breathtaking lake views. I was commissioned by an art gallery-shop to make a mosaic replica of a Roman mosaic. We chose this one, a tiger. I am afraid I only have the pictures on paper and the quality isn't so good.  This is a photo of the original mosaic:
And this is the copy I made (for mosaic reproductions the technique used is usually the double reverse method, "Ravenna" method, a long procedure yet the most effective and accurate).

This next mosaic was made with pebbles showing a simple olive branch. I like this mosaic for its simplicity. It fits and compliments any kind of home interior (and exterior of course.)

Another client from Greece had requested a "mosaic translation" of the celebrated Minoan wall paintings. The idea was to make a small mosaic using the "lilies" theme from Thera, today's Santorini. The result was this next mosaic which I am afraid I only have - again - on paper...There's an invisible hook behind the mosaic so that it can be hanged on the wall giving it a "floating fragment" look. This is what I love about mosaics. You can "play" with their "antique" effect especially if you use cement but even if you make a mosaic on a wooden base, particularly if you use marbles, you can achieve an "antique" effect and add a stylish and distinctive ancient aura to your living space.

These are the beautiful frescoes from Thera:

This next mosaic icon shows Saint Ambrose. The design is based on Byzantine iconography, yet, I should say it is a free and personal rendition that does not reflect tradition "at its best". I only say this out of profound respect for iconography - hagiography according to the Byzantine (Greek-Byzantine tradition.)

These are just some of the mosaics that I have made. Any new mosaics - which I will definitely photograph now that I have a proper digital camera!!! - will be posted later…


  1. The pebbles one is so nice in its simplicity and you have a good tecnique.All of it is nice.Brava.


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