Section of opus sectile pavement composed of square, triangular and rectangular tiles of giallo antico, africano, portasanta and breccia marble arranged into a repeating square-in-square design containted within a grid pattern.
Opus sectile (“cut work”) is a term used to describe the revetment of walls and floors with tiles of marble or other materials cut in specific shapes to form a design when fitted together. As here, stones of different colors were often used to create bold geometric patterns with high chromatic contrast. The technique became popular in the 1st century BC when the expansion of Roman power secured access to colored marbles quarried across the empire, including yellow giallo antico from Simitthu in Numidia; africano (black with red and beige mottling) from Teos in Asia Minor; portasanta (olive green marbling) from Chios; and breccia (white with large red and black inclusions) from Skyros. Because of the exotic provenance of the materials and the complexity of the craft, opus sectile was costly and consequently the preserve of Rome’s wealthiest elites, who often used it to decorate the grandest rooms of their luxury villas.