Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Will the mystery of Byzantine mosaic tesserae ever be solved?
I have always been intrigued by mosaic tesserae (tesserae is the term used for the pieces of which a mosaic is made and it seems to derive from the Greek word tessera=τέσσερα which means "4", a square - four angles).
I have been searching and reading whatever I could get my hands and eyes on as I find this subject a bit of a mystery. Who produced mosaic tesserae, was there a specific region, were the glass workshops making smalti tesserae for the specific mosaic making industry, are we talking of Constantinople mosaics of which the tesserae were produced in Constantinople or where they shipped there from somewhere else? How would tones and tones of mosaic pieces travel throughout the Byzantine Empire? Why is it that today the par excellence location for the production of mosaic tesserae is Venice? Are we looking at a production which was more likely global or local?
There's a remarkable abstract from University Professor Liz James from Sussex which I had read some time ago and kept somewhere in a corner of my mind and now it's time to write down a few things.
Liz James has some truly enlightening information on the subject.
When I contacted her, prior to writing this post, she informed me that a project/conference took place end of May in London at the British Museum called New light on old glass Byzantine glass and mosaics.
The conference was organised by Chris Entwistle, Curator of the Late Roman and Byzantine Collections, and Liz James herself, Director of the Leverhulme International Network for the Composition of Byzantine Glass Mosaic Tesserae (University of Sussex).
Naturally, the conference is only a *tessera* of a greater and spectacular mosaic, a project that aims to address technical questions about the manufacture and distribution of coloured glass mosaic tesserae. Workhops will be held in Ravenna, Thessaloniki and London.
Sponsors of the project is offered by The Leverhulme Trust.
More information is available on:
University of Sussex - Art deparment - mosaic tesserae
Prof. Liz James profilephoto credit