MosaicBlues: August 2014 .entry-content { font-size:25px !important; }

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The first known mosaicist !

Gnosis (Greek: Γνῶσις) is the name of the artist who signed upon the famous 'Stag Hunt mosaic' from the 'House of the Abduction of Helen' in Pella, capital of the Macedonian Kingdom. 

Ancient Greece and Macedonia.

This magnificent pebble floor mosaic is dated from the late 4th century BC.

Stag Hunt Mosaic - 3.24 x 3.17 me - 12.5 x 12.4 feet

Detail of the Central Emblema

The Personages

The hunter on the right could be Alexander the Great Pella was his birthplace, and he had died in 323 BC, 20 to 30 years before the execution of this mosaic.
The figure to the left wields a double-headed axe, related to the God Hephaistos; hence it could be Alexander's best friend and confident General Hephaestion.
The dog could be Alexander's favourite Peritas.


"ΓΝΩΣΙΣ ΕΠΟΗΣΕΝ" - Gnosis Epoesen, Gnosis made this - is the first signature known to us of a mosaicist. Nothing else is known from this talented individual. "Gnosis" means "knowledge" in ancient Greek, and this person certainly was very knowledgeable about his or her Art.

Technical Innovations

An other very interesting aspects of the Pella Mosaics (There are other magnificent ones, but it is not the place...) is that the artists who executed them used techniques no one - to our knowledge - had used before
In Pella for the first time some details were made of semi-precious stones or glass tesserae, and strips of lead and bands of baked clay were also used to emphasize the outlines. 

Dyonisos riding a Panther - Pella, 4th century BC

The Pella Mosaics are displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Pella

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to

If you are interested in purchasing one of my mosaics, would like to commission a special project or to simply discuss the wonderful art of modern and ancient mosaics, please contact me by email at or by phone at (334) 798 1639. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Mosaic Labyrinth

So many ancient mosaics survive that we almost take them for granted and do not really pay attention to them. 

But we should ! 

For they often represent actual scenes of a past long gone or numinous myths and symbols, sending us unusual and important messages about the ancient world, and/or about ourselves...

One of them is the Labyrinth, a recurring pattern of classical Roman mosaics. Although it is more often of a square shape,

Conimbringa, Portugal. 3rd Century AD

Pompeii, Italy, 1st century AD.

it is also sometimes of circular geometry. This circle shape is probably more ancient as it is the shape of prehistoric labyrinths.
Avenches, Switzerland, circa 250 AD

In Pagan times, the center of the Labyrinth was often decorated with a depiction of the slaying of the Minotaur by Theseus.

House of the Labyrinth, Pompeii, 1st century AD

The abundance of Labyrinths designed and executed by Roman mosaicists clearly show that it still was a very powerful symbol during the first centuries of our era.

When Christianity became the official religion of the Empire, it kept the symbol, often - but not always -  removing references to Theseus. 

In some cases, Christian Churches simply "recycled" pagan labyrinths by changing their center piece. In Orleansville, Algeria the center of the Labyrinth was reworked to feature a jeu-de-lettres on the words SANCTA ECLESIA (Holy Church).

During the Middle ages labyrinths were incorporated in numerous French and Italian churches. The French Cathedrals of Chartres and Amiens (13th century) incorporate the two widest labyrinths known to us to this day.

Notre Dame de Chartres, France, early 13th century

Notre Dame d'Amiens, France, 1288

Both these huge labyrinths are still used today as prayer or meditation paths by visitors to these Churches. 

There are also a variety of smaller floor or mural labyrinth in other European Churches . 

The one at the wonderful San Vitale Basilica in Ravenna measures about 3.5 meters (11 feet) in diameter. Although originally thought to date from the sixth century, it is now generally believed to have been built at a much later date, probably during the first half of the 16th century.

Basilica San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy.

The Labyrinth is sometimes taken as an analogy for the spiritual quest. The pilgrim or mystic on his way to enlightenment or God follows a convoluted path, with numerous turns, but finally comes to the center, and then follows the same path back to the real world. 

The Labyrinth took me to mosaics, in a way I would never have dreamed of...

In the early years of this century, by a strange arrangement of coincidences, causes and conditions - this is how karma operates... - I came to built a Labyrinth for the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Dothan. 

This is not the place to tell this story, and I told it somewhere else. But look at the odds of a French Nuclear Engineer building a prayer Labyrinth in South Alabama...

Based on the geometry of the Chartres Cathedral's, the Nativity Labyrinth measures 14 meters (42 feet) in diameter. 

Dothan, Alabama, Early 21st century

It is built of regular rectangular and circular pavers. In order to realize the curvature of the path I had to cut most of them. It took 20 months to complete the work.

Just after completion of this prayer labyrinth, I met in France Jean Pierre Soalhat of Mosaic Tahlaos. I was sooo amazed !

Beside the beauty of his work, I also realized the similarity between the techniques of mosaic and the ones I had used - on another scale - to build the Church Labyrinth.

As soon as I'd be back to the USA, I would try myself at mosaics !

I first built a small table, then the portrait of Venus after Botticelli and the 3rd piece I realized was a Labyrinth table.

Made of 3 materials only : Black Granite, Crema Marble and Red Terra Cotta, it represents the Chartres Labyrinth, flanked by classical Roman patterns.

This was my biggest piece so far. This table is so heavy it's probably tornado proof. It is now at a friend's home in Virginia.
C'est la vie ...

If you are interested in purchasing one of my existing mosaics, would like to discuss a special mosaic or labyrinthine project, or simply discuss the wonderful art of mosaics, please contact me by email at or by phone at (334) 798 1639. 

You may also

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Nile Mosaic of Palestrina

The Nile mosaic of Palestrina, dated from about 100 BC, is of the late Hellenistic style (i.e., it is made of very small tesserae). It was originally covering part of the floor of a Roman Shrine dedicated to the Goddess Fortuna.

The Nile Mosaic. 5.85 x 4.30 m (19 x 14')

This impressive piece depicts the River Nile as it flows from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean.

Ancient mosaics usually help us understand our ancestors. The Nile mosaic is no exception and it is very interesting for 2 reasons.

With 20 different scenes representing more than 40 kinds of actual or mythical animals: Hyenas, Monkeys, Snakes, Mongoose, Sphynx; about 14 kinds of trees and plants; a great variety of architectures houses, temples, farms; different people such as Peasants, Women, Priests, Ethiopians, Soldiers, it is a very detailed depiction of life in Ethiopia and Egypt.

Ethiopian Sphinx

Ethiopian Hunters

Fight between Snake and Mongoose

Fishing boat

Picnic at the lake

Hellenistic Architecture and Egyptian soldiers.

But beside that, the Nile Mosaic also clearly points at the fascination Egypt exerted over the Roman Elite of the late republic.

Pliny the Elder mentioned in his Natural History that :

Mosaics came into use as early as Sulla's régime. At all events there exists even today one made of very small tesserae which he installed in the temple of Fortune at Palestrina ...”

So one of the earliest mosaic installed in Italy is about Egypt, and it was installed in a Temple dedicated to the Goddess Fortuna, which was assimilated by the Romans to the great Egyptian Goddess Isis.

Osiris, Isis and Horus.


We have a good indication here, of the forces at work that were to “corrupt” the original Roman religion with influences from the mystical Eastern Mediterranean World. 

But this, my little friends, is an other story ! 

Currently the Nile Mosaic can be seen at the Museo Nazionale Prenestino in  Palestrina, Italy.

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to

And if you are interested in purchasing one of my mosaics, would like to commission a special project or to simply discuss the wonderful art of mosaics, please contact me by email at or by phone at (334) 798 1639.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Alexandro Botticelli

Alexandro Botticelli c. 1445 – May 17, 1510), was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance. He belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de Medici, 

Among his best known works are The Birth of Venus and Primavera.

I had always loved Botticelli's Venus. One of my very first mosaics was inspired by her.

And well, I am going to do it again... This time the inspiration will be Primavera.

This is a "semi-secret" project, a portrait in the style of Botticelli, a present for someone who does not need to be aware of it. I won't be able to show the actual design, or the completed piece before she gets it. I will however, be able to post some of the work in process pictures. As I will be working with the reverse method, nobody should be able to figure out whose portrait it is...

If you are interested in my purchasing one of my existing mosaics, would like to discuss a special project or simply discuss the wonderful art of mosaics, please contact me by email at or by phone at (334) 798 1639.

You may also