THE ARTLIST

7 Marvelous Mosaics

From gorgeous glass bowls to the ceiling of St Paul's Cathedral 

Mosaics are one of the oldest decorative forms, spanning history from the tiled floors of the Classical age, to the mosaic-encrusted Mosques of the ancient Islamic world, to contemporary ceramics in the present day.

Here we piece together a list of some of our favorite pieced-together artworks.

1. Parrot mosaic, Early to mid-2nd century BCE

This is a small panel from a much larger mosaic floor, which was made from fragments of natural stone in Pergamon in the early to mid-2nd Century BCE.

It shows an 'Alexandrine parakeet' or Alexandrian parrot. Named after Alexander the Great, these birds became popular pets for noble families in Ancient Greece.

Parrot mosaic, Early to mid-2nd century BCE | Pergamonmuseum, National Museums in Berlin
Detail from Parrot mosaic, Early to mid-2nd century BCE | Pergamonmuseum, National Museums in Berlin

2. Hanging Head Dragonfly Shade on Mosaic and Turtleback Base, Design attributed to Clara Pierce Wolcott Driscoll; made by Tiffany Studios, 1906

As the Artistic Director of Tiffany Studios, Louis Comfort Tiffany designed elegant Art Deco glassware. Tiffany approved all patterns and designs but, while acting as Director, he created relatively few lamps himself. Clara Driscoll, head of the Women’s Glass Cutting Department, was likely responsible for this glittering lampshade and elegantly sculpted base.

Hanging Head Dragonfly Shade on Mosaic and Turtleback Base, Design attributed to Clara Pierce Wolcott Driscoll; made by Tiffany Studios, 1906 | The Art Institute of Chicago
Detail from Hanging Head Dragonfly Shade on Mosaic and Turtleback Base, Design attributed to Clara Pierce Wolcott Driscoll; made by Tiffany Studios, 1906 | The Art Institute of Chicago

3. Mihrab (prayer niche), Late 15th century - 16th century

This prayer niche, or mihrab, is a magnificent example of the Islamic mosaic tradition during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Its combination of large-scale Arabic calligraphy and geometric pattern exemplifies this style of early Islamic mosaic design, and would have originally formed part of a mosque in eastern Iran or central Asia.

Mihrab (prayer niche), Late 15th century - 16th century | Cincinnati Art Museum
Detail from Mihrab (prayer niche), Late 15th century - 16th century | Cincinnati Art Museum

4. Centaur mosaic from the Villa Hadriana, 120 CE - 130 CE

The centaur mosaic was found in the 18th century on the site of the sprawling, luxurious villa complex near Tivoli that once belonged to the Roman emperor Hadrian.

It would have formed part of the floor decoration for the Villa's dining room, but the grisly scenes it depicts are enough to put us off our dinner!

Centaur mosaic from the Villa Hadriana, Unknown, 120 CE - 130 CE | Altes Museum, National Museums in Berlin
Detail from Centaur mosaic from the Villa Hadriana, Unknown, 120 CE - 130 CE | Altes Museum, National Museums in Berlin

5. 'Stirry Stirry Sky', by Rohan Wealleans, 2009

The story of Stirry Stirry Sky begins with the collection and storage of small pieces of hardened acrylic paint cut from old paintings. Rohan Wealleans works like a sculptor in paint, building up layers of color which he then carves, bends and manipulates, leaving painting off-cuts on his studio floor like rainbow-colored wood chips.

Stirry Stirry Sky comes from his attempt to work resourcefully with these leftovers by building up a mosaic-like image from tiles of paint. The largest of these tiles comes from a ball of pure paint which Wealleans built up over a year and is included here as a dissected slab of raw material.

Wealleans reinvents this ancient medium - bringing together mosaics and painting.

'Stirry Stirry Sky', Rohan Wealleans, 2009 | Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Detail from 'Stirry Stirry Sky', Rohan Wealleans, 2009 | Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

6. Floor mosaic composition by Ignazio Stern, 1751 - 1752

This large floor mosaic was made for the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist in Lisbon in the latter half of the 18th Century.

Resembling a large rug, and with its almost three-dimensional oval armillary sphere, it really tricks the eye!

Floor mosaic composition, Ignazio Stern; Enrico Ennuo, 1751 - 1752 | Museu de São Roque
Detail from Floor mosaic composition, Ignazio Stern; Enrico Ennuo, 1751 - 1752 | Museu de São Roque

7. Mosaic Glass Bowl, 1st century BCE - 1st century CE

This glass bowl is typical of the luxury tableware used by wealthy Romans in the first centuries BCE and CE.

There was a great demand for mosaic glass vessels among Romans in the early Empire, but producing mosaic glass was complex and labor-intensive. This bowl would have taken several days to make!

Mosaic Glass Bowl, Unknown, 1st century BCE - 1st century CE | The J. Paul Getty Museum
Detail from Mosaic Glass Bowl, Unknown, 1st century BCE - 1st century CE | The J. Paul Getty Museum

8. St Paul's Cathedral's Quire Ceiling, designed by William Blake Richmond, 1904

In the late 19th Century, William Blake Richmond was commissioned to brighten up the plain stone carving of the St Paul's Cathedral ceiling. Using tesserae of tiny glass and gold leaf tiles, Richmond recreated scenes from Genesis in his spectacular Quire Ceiling mosaic.

From East to West (left to right here), the saucer domes show: The Creation of the Birds, The Creation of the Fishes and The Creation of the Beasts. Each of the creatures can be identified as a particular species, including a peacock, an eel, and even a cat.

Quire Ceiling, designed by William Blake Richmond, 1904 | St Paul's Cathedral
Detail from the Quire Ceiling, designed by William Blake Richmond, 1904 | St Paul's Cathedral
Share this story with a friend
Translate with Google
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile