A Roman Mosaic Fragment, ca. 1st century CE
A fragment of mosaic with primarily white tiles intersected by lines of red, orange, and blue tesserae.
Mosaics are exceptionally durable thanks to the materials from which they were made: small pebbles and tesserae (tiles) made of rock, terracotta, and even glass set into waterproof mortar. Like carpets, tiles, and rugs today, mosaics played more than just a utilitarian role in ancient times. As well as being a practical form of floor covering mosaics were often highly decorative and some were clearly intended to "show off" the house-owners wealth and taste. The very finest and most expensive private works were almost always found in the public rooms of houses and villas especially sitting rooms, dining rooms, and guest suites where they could be seen and admired by visitors. The complexity and workmanship of many ancient mosaics is astonishing. The so-called "Alexander mosaics" from Pompeii (which date to around 80 BC) is some 2.7 meters high and 5.12 meters long. It is made up of over 1.5 million tiny titles! The work itself is a copy (in stone tesserae) of a now-lost Greek painting. Indeed one of the reasons mosaics are so important to the student of ancient art is the fact that all too often they represent the only surviving copies of paintings that have long since turned to dust and ash.
Condition: Rejoined from several pieces but now complete and in good condition overall.
Dimensions: Length: 7 1/2 inches (19.1 cm), Width: 5 3/4 inches (14.6 cm)
Provenance: Private Maryland collection of a diplomat, acquired between 1966-1969 and then by descent.