mosaic

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

mosaic

mosaic (mōzā´Ĭk), art of arranging colored pieces of marble, glass, tile, wood, or other material to produce a surface ornament.

Ancient Mosaics

In Egypt and Mesopotamia, furniture, small architectural features, and jewelry were occasionally adorned with inset bits of enamel, glass, and colored stone. Early Greek mosaics (5th–4th cent. BC) uncovered at Olynthus were worked in small natural pebbles. The use of cut cubes or tesserae was introduced from the East after the Alexandrian conquest. Roman floor mosaics were probably based upon Greek examples, and glass mosaics applied to columns, niches, and fountains can be seen at Pompeii. In Italy and the Roman colonies the floor patterns were produced both by large slabs of marble in contrasting colors (opus sectile) and by small marble tesserae (opus tessellatum). The tessera designs varied from simple geometrical patterns in black and white to huge pictorial arrangements of figures and animals; examples were found in Rome, Pompeii, Antioch and Zeugma (S Turkey), and N Africa.

Early Christian Mosaics

In the early centuries AD glass mosaics brought color and decoration to the broad walls of the basilicas. By the 4th cent. the triumphal arch between nave and apse and the walls above the nave arcades received mosaic adornment, while the entire domed apse was lined with a mosaic picture, generally of Jesus surrounded by saints and apostles.

In this period Byzantium (later Constantinople) became the center of the craft, which reached perfection in the 6th cent. Hagia Sophia exhibits glittering gold backgrounds—a special feature of Eastern mosaic art, which later spread to the West. A gold tessera was produced by applying gold leaf to a glass cube and covering it with a thin glass film to protect against tarnishing; for the other tesserae the colors were produced by metallic oxides. The tesserae were set by hand in the damp cement mortar, and the resulting irregularities, causing the facets to reflect at different angles, were an essential factor of effect. In the 5th and 6th cent. Ravenna became the Western center of mosaic art, and the Ravenna masterworks (e.g., the decoration of San Vitale), as well as those in Rome, show the Byzantine characteristics of stylized rigidity in the figures.

Medieval Mosaics

Through the importation of Greek workmen, a revival took place in Italy in the 11th cent. which lasted into the 13th cent., producing the beautiful mural works of Rome, of Saint Mark's Church and Torcello at Venice, and of Palermo, Monreale, and Cefalù in Sicily. Rich medieval marble and mosaic floors with geometric patterns appeared in Italy, Sicily, and the East. In Russia, especially in Kiev, remarkable figural mosaics were set into the walls.

From the 13th cent., mosaic in Italy and Sicily extended to many architectural elements, such as pulpits, bishops' thrones, paschal candlesticks, and the twisted columns of cloisters. These adornments are commonly termed Cosmati work, after the family of Roman artisans especially gifted in their execution. The rise of fresco decoration in the early 14th cent. in Italy superseded mosaic, which then began to deteriorate into mere simulation of painting, although it lingered in Venice, Greece, and Constantinople.

Modern Mosaics

The Gothic revival of the 19th cent. produced some modern attempts, as in Westminster Abbey and the houses of Parliament. In the 20th cent. the medium has been used with truer understanding of techniques, as in the modernist mosaics for the Stockholm town hall. In modern work the ancient system shares favor with a new method of fastening the tesserae with glue upon a paper cartoon drawn in reverse, applying fairly large sections of this into proper position upon the damp mortar, and then washing away the paper after the mortar has hardened and the tesserae have set.

Bibliography

See E. W. Anthony, A History of Mosaics (1935, repr. 1968); F. Rossi, Mosaics: A Survey of Their History and Techniques (1970); J. R. Clark, Roman Black-and-White Figural Mosaics (1985).

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

mosaic
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.