ArtLex Art Dictionary




mmosaic - A picture or design made of tiny pieces (called tesserae) of colored stone, glass, tile or paper adhered to a surface. It is typically decorative work for walls, vaults, ceilings or floors, the tesserae set in plaster or concrete.

This technique was used by the Romans in regularly shaped pieces of marble in its natural colors to decorate their villas. It was later adopted by Byzantine artists using pieces of glass with irregular surfaces to tell the Christian story on the walls of their churches.

Mosaics are among the ten classes of patterns.

(pr. mo-zay'ic)





see thumbnail to rightGreece, Shallow bowl, Late Hellenistic, 1st century BCE, fused mosaic glass, height 3.43 cm, diameter 13 cm, George Ortiz collection. See Greek art.



see thumbnail to leftRoman, Antioch, Asia Minor, The Drinking Contest of Dionysos and Heracles, c. 100 CE, mosaic, Worcester Art Museum, MA. See Roman art.



see thumbnail to rightLate Roman, from a villa at Daphne, near Antioch, Asia Minor, Hunting Scene, early 6th century CE, mosaic, Worcester Art Museum, MA.




see thumbnail to leftByzantium, Constantinople (now Istanbul), Hagia Sophia, South Gallery or Catechumena, The Deesis, third quarter of the 13th century, mosaic, Istanbul, Turkey. Christ's left hand holds a closed Book of Gospels as he raises his right hand in benediction. His face is strikingly realistic and expressive, as are those of the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, who stand to either side of Christ. All are set against a golden background. The lower portion of the composition has been damaged. This and all other mosaics in Hagia Sophia were covered with plaster at the church's conversion into a mosque in the 15th century. This actually preserved the mosaics for later restoration, which began in 1929, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered the conversion of the mosque into a museum. See art conservation, Byzantine art, detail, deesis, and lacuna.




see thumbnail to rightIran, Mihrab from the Madrasa Imami in Isfahan, 755 AH / c. 1354 CE, mosaic of monochrome-glaze tiles on composite body set on plaster, 11 feet 3 inches x 7 feet 6 inches (343.1 x 288.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See Islamic art and mihrab.



see thumbnail to leftAztec/Mixtec (Mexico), Double-Headed Serpent, 15th-16th century, mosaic of turquoise, iron pyrites and shell on carved wood, traces of gilding, British Museum, London. The snake was perhaps the single most important animal in Aztec religion. See ancipital.




see thumbnail to rightAntoni Gaudí (Spanish, 1852-1926) and Josep Maria Jujol (Spanish, 1879-1949), the serpentine bench at Güell Park (Parc Güell), 1900-1914, trencadis on cement, Barcelona, Spain.


see thumbnail to leftTelephoto shot of the top of the bench.


see thumbnail to rightDetails of the bench.
See serpentine and telephoto.



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Also see feather, marquetry, mortar, parquetry, pique assiette (also called picassiette), plaque, and smalto.



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