Centaur mosaic, 120-130 CE

Rome, Italy 

This mosaic panel was once the central piece of much larger floor of a dining room in the Tivoli villa outside of Rome. The villa was a luxurious garden palace and retreat for the Roman emperor Hadrian. The finest artists and craftsman of Imperial Rome were called to Tivoli to create magnificent mosaics. These are images and designs used to decorate floors, ceilings and other surfaces. Composed of tiny pieces of stone and glass, this scene depicts a battle between a centaur, a leopard, tiger and lion.

CENTAUR MOSAIC, ca. 120-130 CE, colored stones, Roman Empire (collection: Altes Museum, National Museums in Berlin)

The centaur, a half-human, half-horse mythological creature attacks the tiger at a pivotal moment in his fight. He raises a great stone to hurl at cat who is about to kill his injured comrade. Take a closer look at the tiger in this gigapixel image here.

Using subtle color gradations in the small stone pieces, the artist vividly captures the tiger's muscular form and powerful stance. Take an even closer look here to see the degree of nuance and complexity in the design.

We can how the puzzle pieces come together to bring to the wild cat's features to life, especially the piercing eye and open mouth. Use the zoom viewer to explore further other details of this remarkable Roman mosaic.

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