Greek-Hellenistic mosaic

Greek-Hellenistic mosaic

By the 5th century B.C. Pebble technique had fully developed but it was only in the following century that this art form reached its peak ,as it can be seen in the floors uncovered in Pella ,the ancient capital of Macedonia, where small, closely set pebbles in a variety of hues vied with painting .which had become the main source of inspiration .In these mosaics subtle pictorial and plastic effects are achieved ,while several outlines on the figures are rendered with thin strips of lead or terracotta.

A further step towards mosaic technique was taken when in a the course of  4th century, natural pebbles began to be roughly cut or chipped into smaller pieces for greater precision in rendering the detail of figure , as can be seen in various mosaics at Olympia and Assos. At some time in the 3rd century there took place the last and most significant step in the technical development of mosaic, namely the introduction of cube-shaped fragments of stones ( Tesserae) which gradually superseded the use of natural pebbles , tough these, being a much cheaper raw material , continued to be used by mosaicists well into the 1st century B.C.

The gradual transition from pebbles to Tesserae , which was helped along by a number of intermediate and experimental techniques such as the use of irregular Tesserae ,specially cut pieces and stone chips ,was brought about by a number of factors: The supply of cubes was more easily obtained and offered a wider range of colours ; Tesserae were more easily laid and adapted to the desired design and ,most important of all, they provided flat and even surface which could be ground waxed to bring out the colours of the stones in all their brilliance.

It is worth noting that the most streaking feature of Greek-Hellenistic mosaic floors made either of the Pebbles or Tesserae is that they had originated throughout their historical development from the 5th to the 1st century B.C.  . Firstly the mosaic is in fact smaller than the whole floor surface and not always placed symmetrically within the room it decorates.The composition itself suggests a rough design for it is concentrically arranged with a series of decorative frames surrounding a central panel , either square or rectangular in shape , which often contains a figural picture that can be read  from only one direction .

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