Mosaics can be A medium and expression of creativity Fine art Public art Integrated into architecture, indoors and outdoors. Tiles and mosaics are so closely connected it can be hard to make distinctions. Geometric tile arrangements are mosaics, and many mosaics are made of tiles, whether glass or ceramic.
Often the tiles are cut, shaped, patterned or decorated. They may be purpose-made for the mosaic. If you get interested in mosaic, you're likely to be interested in tiles and ceramics such as architectural ceramics , brickwork patterns, flooring patterns such as Cosmati work as well. Mosaic as an art form is closest to painting: Also, both mosaic and painting are suitable for large-scale surface decoration. However, unlike the painter, the mosaicist is limited in his colour-palette, by his choice of materials.
Thus it is extremely difficult to achieve the same tonal variation of light and shadow as can be attained by using say oil paint, whose colour spectrum is enormous. Even so, mosaic art has attributes that render it more effective for distance effects.
The History of Mosaic Art. The earliest known mosaics, created using pebbles as tesserae, date from the 8th century BCE. This pebble technique, used for both pavements and walls, was later greatly refined by Greek craftsmen during the 5th century. They were able to create intricate designs, using pebbles between one and two centimetres in diameter. Outlines were created with tiny black pebbles, and by the 4th century, coloured stones painted red and green were added for greater variety, helping Greek artists to produce complex geometric patterns as well as detailed scenes of people and animals.
Throughout classical antiquity , mosaic remained first and foremost a technique used for decorating pavements or floors where durability was a paramount priority. Stone, particularly limestone and marble, was ideally suited for this purpose. It could be cut into tiny chunks and its natural hue s provided an adequate basic range of colours for most pictorial designs. Manufactured Tesserae and First Use of Glass.
During the era of Hellenistic art c. First, they began using glass as well as stone. Glass could be manufactured in almost any hue or shade, thus greatly extending the range of colour available to the artist. By the end of the 3rd Century BCE, small factories had sprung up to manufacture special mosaic pieces tesserae offering enough extra detail to enable mosaicists to imitate paintings.
Ceramic tesserae are cut from tiles or, like much modern glass mosaic material such as pressed glass , come prefabricated. Non-religious Umayyad mosaic works were mainly floor panels which decorated the palaces of the caliphs and other high-ranking officials. Mosaic fell out of fashion in the Renaissance , though artists like Raphael continued to practise the old technique. In the Ghassanid era religious mosaic art flourished in their territory, so far five churches with mosaic were recorded from that era, two built by Ghassanid rulers and the other three by the Christian Arab community who wrote their names and dedications. As with most decorative arts, the surface has to be prepared before it can be decorated, and in this case that means adding some form of adhesive.
And while glass was not as suitable as stone for pavements and floors, its lightness made it ideal for wall mosaic where decorative quality was more important than durability. Greek craftsmen were recruited in large numbers by Rome after Greece declined, although the Romans employed mosaic mainly for the floors of domestic buildings. Outstanding examples have survived from Herculaneun, Pompeii, and Ostia. Mosaic designs during the Roman period - typically devoted to scenes celebrating gods, domestic themes and geometric patternwork - were executed throughout the Roman Empire, but skill levels were not maintained.
Mosaics made in Northern Gaul or Roman Britain, for instance, were noticeably more primitive than Italian and Greek examples. See also Roman Art. During the era of early Christian art c.
See also Russian Medieval Painting. It was also during the Early Christian period, that artists first produced gold and silver glass tesserae, by applying metallic foil to the backs of glass pieces.
This type of "mirror glass" led to an even greater intensity of light. With the fall of Rome, Byzantium Constantinople became the centre of Christianity, and attracted huge numbers of Roman and Greek craftsmen, including mosaicists. Indeed, during this period, mosaic achieved new heights of creativity and technique, becoming an important feature of Byzantine architecture. New glass tesserae smalti were manufactured from thick sheets of coloured glass. From glue to plaster to concrete, artists have found numerous ways to create a sticky surface that will dry and hold onto an object for a very long time.
Next, you've got to add the mosaic pieces themselves. We call the individual components of a mosaic tesserae , which comes from the Latin word for 'dice' or 'cube.
Minerals, shells, and various stone have all been used throughout history. The most common materials, however, tend to be marble, ceramic tile, and glass.
All of these can be naturally or artificially colored, tend to have attractive visual qualities, and can easily be cut or formed into thin, lightweight, and uniform shapes. This is a cool art form, but where did it come from? From what we can tell, mosaics have been around for a very long time, perhaps as long as architecture itself. The oldest mosaics we've found date to the 3rd millennium BCE, in a temple in Mesopotamia.
These ancient mosaics were made of stones, shells, and ivory, most of which were locally available products. It's worth noting that similar mosaics have been found in the Americas dating at least CE and possibly before in the Maya civilization, where the art form was developed independently. Ceramic tesserae did not enter the picture for a few thousand years. While there is evidence of glass mosaics in 2nd millennium BCE Persia, mosaics really took off in complexity in ancient Greece.
Greek villas and other buildings were often decorated with mosaics made of ceramic tiles or marble. They could depict geometric patterns or scenes from history and mythology. The Romans expanded upon this even further, and started using glass tesserae more frequently.
As the glass was first produced in Egypt, we begin to get a picture of a trans-Mediterranean artistic culture thriving around mosaic production. Mesopotamian, Greek, Egyptian, Persian, and Roman artists all contributed to the designs and materials used in this art form. Mosaics were very important parts of many Roman villas, and several have survived in Roman provinces like Tunisia and Syria, as well as the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. From what we can tell, mosaics were a symbol of wealth, since they were so complex and so time-consuming to install.
From there, we can see Roman influence diverge in two directions. On one hand, we've got the early Christian Church, which was centered in Rome. Ancient Christians adopted Roman-style mosaics, very frequently for the floors of baptisteries. However, they rarely depicted people in mosaics, choosing instead to focus on symbols of their often-underground faith, like anchors, fish, and of course crosses.
After Rome fell, however, Roman Christians started moving away from mosaics and the art form was temporarily abandoned. That's where we get into the second pathway of Roman influence.
Before falling, Rome split between an eastern and western capital. The eastern capital, Constantinople, became the center of the Byzantine Empire with the end of Roman dominance. Mosaics maintained their status as the highest of art forms in the Christian Byzantine world, and they decorated many Byzantine churches. Byzantine mosaics are noted for their size, complexity, frequent placement on walls instead of just floors and a very heavy use of gold.
Gold tiles, or more accurately, gold leaf sandwiched between two thin glass tiles, were ubiquitous features of Byzantine mosaics. Some of the best examples of Byzantine mosaic art can be found in Ravenna, Italy, at a prominent Byzantine church called San Vitale. During the Italian Renaissance, an interest in mosaics was rekindled to some degree resulting in incredible works like the Byzantine-inspired Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence , but never challenged painting's role as the dominant art.
Since then, mosaics have remained an important part of art history, but are still associated with the Byzantines more than anyone else. To have mastered the art of mosaics, we also have to imagine that the Byzantines truly mastered another elusive art as well: Mosaics are decorated surfaces created by setting individual components called tesserae into aesthetic patterns. This art form has existed since at least ancient Mesopotamia, and was one the first media to spread all across the Mediterranean. The Greeks and Romans both frequently used mosaics generally on the floors of villas as did early Christians.