Thursday, October 31, 2013

LATEST NEWS: 1700 year old #mosaic is discovered in Turkey

A mosaic has been accidentally discovered in Turkey. The mosaic shows a woman who personifies ΚΤΙCΙC  (the inscription is in Greek and it means "creation/construction").
Find out more about this on WORD BULLETIN.


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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sabratha, Morgantina, Delos: Musing on the transition from stones to tesserae in #mosaic art

A pensive girl...
Pebble mosaic floor in an old guest-house in Li Jiang, Yunnan, PRC (China)
image credit

Basically a writing challenge

I know it's dangerous to delve into an area intended for experts, historians and professional writers but I need to find answers. I also need to write so here I am giving myself a ...writing challenge about a historical phase in mosaic art that I want to understand.

A couple of weeks ago, while going through some of the things I write for the blog, something new emerged. The transition from pebbles or uncut stones into tesserae for mosaic construction.

I realised that in the The essential visual guide to mosaic post that I had published when I started this blog in 2010 there was no mention of that phase or the transition. This means I must rewrite it...

Anyway. I was VERY lucky to come across the mosaic from Sabratha and voilà...a new post and a challenging topic to investigate.

And so I began googling and reading a variety of articles and personal blogs. But more than anything this was a writing challenge. You see, writing reveals things to me. I saw that happening. So, I'm sticking to it.
Of course, what I write here is my own opinion and is subject to confirmation from the experts. As far as the dates ascribed to the mosaics are concerned, I have provided the dates that I have found from the various sources and which I have double checked.

One thing is almost certain. Tessellated mosaics (mosaics using tiles, stones that have been cut and not used in their original state) are considered to have appeared at some point in the 3rd century BC.

Now, will you join me on a journey to Libya, Sicily and Greece to muse over some truly intriguing mosaics?

First stop. Sabratha, Libya.

Fragment of floor in opus signinum with the sign of Tanit, 3rd-1st C. BC, Sabratha
Images Copyright Brian J. McMorrow 1999-2012 - image credit

When I stumbled upon this photo from Sabratha, I was in awe.

Sabratha in Libya was a Phoenician trading-post that served as an outlet for the products of the African hinterland and it enjoyed prosperity during the 3rd and 2nd century BC.

According to what I have found on the internet, Sabratha boasts both Hellenistic and Byzantine period mosaics. In the museum of Sabratha, there are some amazing mosaics in exhibit. The most important mosaics come from a Basilica from the time of Justinian.

The above mosaic from Sabatha clearly shows the use of tesserae even if only a little figured was mosaiced (or seems to have been mosaiced). Since I am not aware of what the original mosaic looked like or if this is what it actually looked like more or less, I will just make some observations based on what I see.

The technique of the little man mosaic in Sabratha is called opus signinum which is a kind of pavement used in Roman times that was made with broken tiles mixed with mortar. Floors made this way were common in Hellenistic Sicily.

What's fascinating in this picture is that we have a mix of opus signinum and opus tessellatum (mosaic using tesserae as we know it today). Two in one!

However, in Sabratha, a city that had ties with Rome (similar mosaics have been found in Ostia), the mosaics are clearly in a tessellated form as this picture here below demonstrates. This is from the Roman baths and it should be from the 2nd century.

Now, let's go to Italy for another mosaic "mix".

Next stop. Morgantina in Sicily.

Mosaic floor 3rd century Hellenistic Morgantina (Sicily) Magna Grecia

In the above mosaic from Morgantina, we see both uncut stones and tesserae into one single mosaic.

The mosaic floors in Morgantina are considered to be among the first examples of mosaics using tesserae in Magna Grecia. From the information I could gather, they are dated 3rd century BC (2nd half of 3rd century).

Look at the background surrounding this mosaic. It's decorated in random order with stones that are not completely square. Most of them are square enough but the way they were juxtaposed is not a sign of a flourished mosaic style that we would observe in other mosaic floors throughout the same period.

I doubt if this mosaic blending random stones and tesserae would occur at a later period (from the 3rd century that marked the shift into tessellated mosaics). 

Here's a tessellated mosaic from the House of Ganimedes in Morgantina, made with tesserae, unlike the one before which is apparently an exception according to what I have been able to find on the internet.

Ganimedes mosaic from Morgantina
image credit

Last stop. Delos, Greece.

This last mosaic must be the most unpredictable! This is from Delos island. The mosaics on this special mosaic island in Greece date from the 2nd century BC. The mosaics are in tessellated style.

But this mosaic here tells another story, a non-tessellated story.

 Mosaic floor from Delos
(I have not been able to discover its date but the mosaics in Delos are dated 2nd-1st century BC)
image credit

But before showing some "real" (tessellated) mosaics from Delos, here's another vivid example of "mosaic mix" fashion from Delos.

Isn't it simply astonishing?

Black and white mosaic floor in a "mixed" fashion from Delos island
image credit

Perhaps that most famous mosaic from Delos is this one here featuring Dionysus riding a panther from the House of the Masks which is dated ca 120 - 80 BC. The building may have served as a hostel for actors, hence, its name.

Another mosaic now part of the Archaeological Museum on the inhabited island of Delos is this one here. King Lycurgus of Thrace killing Ambrosia, which is changed into a grapevine. Clearly and absolutely tessellated.

I find this mosaic absolutely remarkable for two reasons.

Firstly, its technique is perfect considering that it was made end of 2nd century BC and that it measures 69 x 73 cm. Try to zoom in and you will see what I mean.

Secondly, its dark background is testimony to a refined and more sophisticated mosaic making technique - as early as the end of the 2nd century BC - that looks at the human form rather than patterns. It brings to mind the frescoes from Pompeii and of course the pebble mosaics in Pella from the 4th century BC.

 King Lycurgus of Thrace killing Ambrosia, which is changed into a grapevine.
Greek mosaic from Delos, end of 2nd century BC, 69 x 73 cm. Archaeological Museum of Delos
From wikipedia image credit

Judging from these three mosaics that speak their own language - actually I'd say they are bilingual - someone would agree that indeed the transition did occur somewhere in the 3rd century BC.

Of course you didn't need me to say that. All the books say that. But seeing how the two styles overlap is something else and I hope that I have achieved in sharing the excitement regarding the transition from pebbles to tesserae excitement with you all!

As I said in the beginning of this post, this was more of a writing challenge (on mosaic art) than anything else so please forgive me if I have said something stupid or unfounded.

You see, mosaic art is VERY challenging not just in its making but also as a subject to study. The more you read about the history of mosaics, the more new information you will be inundated with.

A presto!


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Sunday, October 27, 2013

NYC Subway mosaics inspire a designer to create stamps

New York and its amazing subway mosaics were the source of inspiration for designer Mala Desai who created these for a packaging project while still a student.

Interesting find, don't you think?


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Saturday, October 26, 2013

A book for children illustrated with stained glass mosaics

This is a quick post to share something really interesting!

A children's book illustrated with stained glass mosaic images by artist Christine Brallier.

The artist has spent more than four years creating the 15 mosaics featured in the classic story "The night before Christmas" written by Clement C. Moore.

How lovely!

A dopo.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Once upon a time, there was Campari, a King and a (mosaic) artist

Campari, glamour, mosaics all in one place: The heart of Milan 

It was 1867. City of Milan. The Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery is inaugurated in the presence of the King himself. A story was about to unfold that would mark the life of the Campari brand and set a new lifestyle trend. The Italian aperitivo.

After the inauguration, Gaspare Campari, an Italian drink maker and an entrepreneur, seized the opportunity and moved his home in the Galleria, opened a restaurant and a wine shop.

The founder of the Campari brand was born in Lombardy in 1828 and was a son of a farmer. At the age of 14 he was hired at a Turin tavern as a dishwasher. One year later he was promoted to master drink maker. In 1860 he opened the Cafè Amicizia in Milan. Seven years later, following the Galleria's inauguration, Gaspare Campari had his own place in the Milan's most refined architectural landmark.

He was a man of vision. Not just hard work and talent.

In 1915 the Camparino bar opens up in the Galleria and brings in an innovation to drinking Campari by means of a hydraulic system leading from the cellar which guaranteed a continuous flow of iced soda water to the bar.

The Camparino soon became a symbol, an emblem of the city, the place where Verdi and Toscanini would go right after the Scala (you can get to the Scala through one of the alleys of the Galleria).

The old furnishings were replaced with Liberty Style decor (Art Nouveau) in 1923/1925. Three artists were involved. Cabinet-maker Eugenio Quarti, painter/mosaic artist Angelo d'Andrea (primarily known for this paintings) and Alessandro Mazzuccotelli responsible for the and ironwork.

Angelo d'Andrea created the mosaic wall decoration for the Camparino bar in 1914.

Four years before, King Vittorio Emanuele III had bought one of his paintings. His destiny to decorate the bar with mosaics seems to have been sealed back then.

Regarding the floral mosaic decoration on the walls (featuring red peacocks - symbolising Campari?), it appears that it was one of those things that remained intact from the old bar. It would apparently be that way judging from its style and seeing old pictures of the bar.

In 1943 the Gallery is hit. It was war time. In 1922 Guglielmo Miani, a tailor from Puglia, buys the bar's license back from Caffè Zucca to which Campari had passed it on.

In the year 1983 the bar is authorised to use the name "Camparino" on its sign.

However, in 1996 there was a request to remove the signs installed in the Bar Camparino. Luckily the situation was inverted in 2012 along with a brand new look for the bar commissioned by Campari and designed by Ugo Nespolo.

The bar continues to shine on and lead the way, surely deserving to be considered an icon for Milan.

Nobody goes to Milan without walking through the Galleria, admiring the shops and taking pictures of the beautiful architecture.

This is the place to feel the aura of the chic and the classic that distinguishes Milan from other cities in Italy.

And should occasionally be enjoyed in style and this is one place to do it.

A presto!


photo credits: Foursquare,,

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Excellent video demonstrating the Ravenna method (double reverse) for making mosaics

This is the best video I have ever come across that shows my favourite method for making mosaics. If you watch this from the beginning till the end you will appreciate why mosaic is expensive, hard to make and mostly why it requires an appropriate space where to cut, assemble and construct your mosaic piece. I really miss that grassello di calce

A presto!


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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Tonight is the night (for mosaic) !!!

Okay. I am only sitting in my kitchen and Ravenna isn't exactly far from where I live but I have such a tight schedule that I really can't move. At least not tonight.

And guys...Tonight is the night you have all been waiting for.

The Ravenna Mosaico 2013 Festival is opening today with Notte d'Oro and with the official opening of the international mosaic art exhibition taking place at 21.00.

Even if I won't be there to indulge into this mosaic profusion, I will virtually be there sharing interesting links regarding the event on my FACEBOOK page.

I have just posted a few things so feel free to take a look. Unless you are in Ravenna.......

A presto!


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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mosaic Spotting: Kikko vest by Bea Valdes

photo credit:

This striking vest - yet another exquisite beaded creation by Bea Valdes - is inspired by the book "The Art of War". Its symmetrical embellishment and right choice of colours are surely reminiscent of Chinese epic films with swords, tea leafs and cunning women walking and shedding that false tear .

Talking of tea, back to some black tea with milk and sugar!

(but how I wish I had some jasmine tea now)

A presto!


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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

BREATHTAKING article about mosaic art was published TODAY on

An image to feast your eyes on and an article to make your heart pump was published today 9/10/2013 on

The article is called The culture of fashion: mosaics and it gives a brief account of mosaic art history. The images used are gorgeous so hurry up and go read it!

So this was a morning infused with gold tesserae and an immense excitement about this brilliant article that I wanted to share with you all.

A presto!


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Friday, October 4, 2013

MOSAIC LINKS (best of Sept-Oct 2013)

A selection of articles, events, videos, artists that really worth it.
(September-October 2013) 

RavennaMosaico Festival 2013

First and foremost, the program of the RavennaΜosaicο 2013 festival starting 12 October until 24 November has been released and is available at Besides the gallery openings there will be a variety of other events in the city of Ravenna and this is your chance to get totally imbued in mosaic art.

Chimeras and mosaics
(Phenomena - National Geographic)

An exciting scientific post blending mosaic and SCIENCE. In the article, mosaic art is used as comparison. Check it out HERE.

Sicis O'clock Collection

If you have been following what Sicis has been doing in recent years, this video will confirm your wildest guess. The mirco and nano mosaics here are exquisite. Watch out for the Russian inspiration.

Samantha Holmes

Samantha Holmes is an exceptional artist for the simple materials she uses and the way she breaths new and meaningful life into them. She actually gives them a new identity. The thought process she uses is distinctively rooted into a philosophical approach to life. Another reason why I love her work is that she is using my favourite material: paper. Samantha will be one of the artists to exhibit in the RavennaMosaico festival this year.

A presto!


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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Flying, falling or both

Your rise could induce a fall.
And your fall could be the cause of a rise.

You might be flying but you could also be falling or both.

You are wondering if this confusion is because your dreams are being dissolved into thin air before they can get the chance to become true.

But don't think about that.
Wait till the winds are not that brutal.
Or until you stop minding the winds.

You will re-emerge.


Words by Magda of Mosaicology
#Mosaic Art by Olga Goulandris (
Volcan di Pacaya 2012)

A presto!

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