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Greek and Roman mosaics

Westgate, Ruth Caroline 2014. Greek and Roman mosaics. Oxford Bibliographies: Classics

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Abstract

The earliest decorated mosaics in the Greco-Roman world were made in Greece in the late 5th century BCE, using black and white pebbles. Mosaics made with cut cubes (tesserae) of stone, ceramic, or glass were probably developed in the 3rd century BCE, and soon became standard. Relatively few mosaics are known from the classical and Hellenistic periods, but under Roman rule the technique spread far beyond the Mediterranean, and distinctive styles evolved in different regions. Mosaic was first used to decorate walls and vaults in Italy in the 1st century BCE. Early wall mosaics combined colored glass, shells, pumice, and other materials, but by the mid-1st century CE glass tesserae were the standard material. In all periods, floor mosaics are much more common than wall and vault mosaics, because they are less vulnerable when buildings collapse. Mosaics were most often used to decorate houses, but they were also used in baths, on both floors and walls, and sometimes in other public buildings. In Late Antiquity, floor and wall mosaics also became a common form of decoration in churches. The majority of ancient mosaics were decorated with geometric or vegetal patterns, but in the most important rooms they often depicted scenes from mythology or everyday life. The study of mosaics has traditionally been dominated by art-historical concerns, such as style, motifs, iconography, attribution, and chronology, but in recent years more interest has been devoted to the social and economic implications of mosaics, such as how they were used to present the patron and his family in a flattering light, or to structure space, especially in houses. Scientific analysis of materials is also beginning to play an important role in mosaic studies, providing a new source of evidence for art-historical questions such as attribution and the development of techniques and styles

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D051 Ancient History
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 05:48
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/53614

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