A fragment of mosaic with beautifully colored tiles. Two stripes of blue tiles in the shape of a "T" topped by three red tiles, a group of white tiles to one side, and a smaller group of light brown tiles on the other side.
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 metres high and 5.12 metres 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: Fragment, all tiles securely intact, age appropriate mineral deposits.
Dimensions: length: 5 3/4 inches (14.6 cm), width: 4 3/4 inches (12 cm), height: 2 1/2 inches (6.3 cm).
Provenance: Private Maryland collection, acquired in the 1960's and then by descent.