Meanwhile… Mosaics

Everyone thinks of the Romans when they think of mosaics. Of course, the Roman craftsmen produced the most elaborate and beautiful floors for villas all over Europe – some of which took years to build – but mosaic art began long before the then.

The word “mosaic” is thought to come, via French (mosaicq, mosaic work), from Latin (musaicus, [work] of the muses), and before that from the Greek musa. Despite this Mediterranean etymology, the earliest mosaics have been found in Warka (now in Iraq), and are thought to be 4,500 years old. Very early works were formed by pushing terracotta cones, point-first into a base material, with little if any pattern being formed. As mosaic art progressed, varying materials began to be used to create patterns and more complex pictures – often mythological scenes. These materials included shells, pebbles or other stones (including marble), pottery, and glass. Later, dedicated tiles, called tessaræ, were introduced.

There remain three main techniques for building a mosaic: the direct method, when tessaræ are applied directly to the supporting material; the indirect method, when tessaræ are first applied, face down, to an adhesive (usually sticky paper), then transferred en bloc to the final supporting-material; and the double indirect-method, when the tessaræ are applied face up on the adhesive – so progress can be monitored – then a secondary adhesive is placed over the front and the backing adhesive removed, before the whole lot is transferred to the supporting material.

Mosaic art continues to thrive, and is well supported by associations of artists, collectors, and appreciators all around the world.

Update: check out my Mosaic board on Pinterest:

Wall cone mosaic, from in late prehistoric temple in Warka.

Wall cone mosaic, from a late prehistoric temple in Warka.

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