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Monday, September 18, 2017

The Mona Lisa of Gallilee - A case of plagiarism in Roman Mosaic Art ?

Since the beginning of humanity, artists have been borrowing from each other.  In a previous post, I wrote about the amazing similarities between a 2nd century BC Pasiphae Mosaic in Zeugma - Turkey and a 1st century AD fresco from the House of the Vettii in Pompeii, Italy. 

Today I'd like to share with you an example of a troubling resemblance between 2 Roman mosaics.

The stunning Mona Lisa of Galilee was unearthed from the ancient city of Sepphoris, an ancient town  grown between the 1st cent. BC and the 7th century to become a thriving administrative, commercial and religious center with a diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious population of some 30,000 living in relatively peaceful coexistence.


Roman mosaic portrait depicting a captivating woman adorned with earrings and a laurel garland, Triclium of the Roman Villa, Sepphoris, Galilee, Israel.
The Mona Lisa of Galilee


Her enigmatic smile can presently be admired in the antic town of Zippori on the Triclinium floor of the Roman Villa.

I stumbled on the "Mosaique au buste feminin" - Female Torso mosaic - browsing the Internet for Roman mosaic portraits, and she immediately reminded me of someone...


This gorgeous piece had been auctioned by a French Art Dealer for the modest price of 5,500.00 Euros.



Mosaïque au buste féminin. Elle représente le buste d'une femme, la tête légèrement tournée, les cheveux ceints d'une couronne végétale, dans un décor de rinceaux. Marbre, calcite et pâte de verre. Art Romain, ca. IVe siècle. 51,5 cm x 34,5 cm
Mosaique au buste feminin.

Although obviously the two pieces are not of the same aesthetic quality, the resemblance is stunning. This beauty cannot possibly be a copy made from memory. Either she was laid from a drawing made after the first piece, or the drawing used to lay her was a copy of the drawing used to lay the first piece.
Unfortunately, we do not know the provenance of this mosaic. My attempts at contacting the auctioneer were not successful. The catalog lists her as "ca 4th century AD", which would make both mosaics contemporary. 

Now, why would a modern mosaic artist care for this kind of things ? Well, maybe for the same reasons why Renaissance masters cared for Roman Art...

I am a modern mosaic artist with a deep admiration for ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine Arts.
You can see my own mosaics on my site at mosaicblues.  

If you are interested by my work or would like to drop me a line please contact me by email at 
or by phone at (334) 798 1639. 

You can also 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Roman Mosaic Art - Andromeda & Perseus.

The Myth of Andromeda and Perseus has been the subject of numerous ancient and modern works of art, which typically show the moment when Perseus rescues her from the Monster Cetos.

Andromeda & Perseus - Fresco, Pompeii

When her mother Queen Cassiopeia  boasted that  Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids,  Poseidon sent the sea monster Cetus to ravage the coast of Ethiopia. An Oracle announced that to save his kingdom the King would have to sacrifice his daughter to the monster. And so Andromeda was chained naked to a rock on the coast.

Perseus, who was passing by on his way back from slaying Medusa came to rescue the Maiden. Sneaking upon Cetus under a cloak of invisibility, he killed him, set Andromeda free, and married her.

The intricacies of the center piece are enhanced by the sober design of this mosaic border

On this 3rd century mosaic from Gaziantep, Turkey, Perseus is still holding the head of Medusa slained earlier in the story. 

The names on the mosaics are written in Greek characters as People from that part of the empire were generally speaking Greek rather than latin. 

Mosaic borders were expertly used by Roman mosaicists to create the same effect wooden frames have on paintings. The relatively simple design of this one contrasts with the intricacies of the mythological scene and pulls our eyes and attention toward the main scene. 

Here is this pattern : 

Mosaic borders enhance the visibility of a mosaic like a wooden frame enhances our enjoyment of painting.
Andromeda - Perseus Mosaic border pattern.

I am currently building a library of Roman Mosaic borders to be used in modern mosaics. 

My mosaic border patterns are available for sale for use in your mosaics.
Meander border on Carola Quinta Mosaic (Work in Progress)

Would you be interested in using some of those patterns for your own art ? Please contact me at

I am a French mosaicist
living in Headland, Alabama, USA.
My Art is about inspiring people.
You can see some of my work 

You can contact me either by phone 
at (334) 798 1639 or by email at 
You can also subscribe to my

Thursday, August 31, 2017

La Mosaique des Colombes d'Hadrien.

La mosaïque aux Colombes fut découverte lors des fouilles de la villa d’Hadrien en 1737.

Mosaïque des colombes découverte en 1737 a Tivoli.

Alors que certains experts pensent que cette beauté est en fait la célèbre mosaïque des Colombes réalisée par le célèbre Sosus de Pergame au 2ème siècle av. J.-C. et mentionnée par Pline dans son Histoire Naturelle, d'autres la croient être une copie exécutée pour Hadrien au 2eme siècle de notre ère.
De très nombreuses copies de cette mosaïque furent créées tant durant l’antiquité qu'a l’époque moderne. D'antiques copies ont été retrouvées a Delos, Pompeii, Capoue ..

Mosaïque aux Colombes de Pompéi, 1er siècle

Dans des mausolées Chrétiens tels celui de Constance a Rome ou celui de Galla Placidia a Ravenne.

Mosaïque aux colombes ornée de svastiskas, Malte, 1er siècle

Mosaïque aux colombes d'Ostie, 1er siècle.

Mausolée de Galla Placidia, 5eme siècle

Pour moi, la plus belle d'entre elles est l'emblema découverte dans la villa d'Hadrien. Elle est composée de milliers de très petites tesselles de 2 a 3 mm de cote, une technique nommée opus vermiculatum, la plus sophistiquée de toutes les techniques d'assemblage de mosaïques. Un Fragment du cadre de cette mosaïque est expose au Musee d'Arles Antique cet été. 
Fragment de la bordure de la mosaique des Colombes

Les tesselles utilisées pour réaliser ce cadre mesurent au plus 3 mm de cote. On réservait généralement ce type de tesselles pour les pièces centrales - Emblema - et on utilisait des tesselles de tailles supérieures pour réaliser les bordures en Opus Tessellatum. Hadrien était un protecteur des Arts. Ce type de chef d’œuvre n’était produit que dans un petit nombre d'ateliers hautement spécialises de l'Empire. 

Toutes ces variations sur un même thème nous donnent une autre indication de la manière dont les anciens musivarii travaillaient. Je suis persuade qu'ils disposaient de livres ou rouleaux de modèles a montrer aux architectes et clients pour qu'ils fassent leur choix. Dans certains cas, plusieurs thèmes pouvaient être utilises au sein d'une même mosaïque. J’écrirais plus longuement une autre fois au sujet du perroquet que vous pouvez voir dans le coin inférieur droit de la mosaïque d'Ostie. 

L'une des raisons pour laquelle je visite tous ces musées et sites archéologiques Européens est que je suis en train de composer une collection de motifs géométriques utilises par les mosaïstes Romains. 

These intricate patterns could also be improved to give the impression of 3D volume
Exemple de motif cree dans ma collection.

Tout cela prend pas mal de temps car certains d'entre eux sont forts complexes... Ils sont toutefois magnifiques et apportent a la pièce centrale qu'ils bordent la profondeur et l’intensité qu'un cadre flamboyant peut apporter a une peinture. 

 Je suis un mosaïste Français 
vivant a Headland en Alabama 
dans le Sud des Etats Unis. 
J'aime inspirer les gens. 
Vous pouvez voir mon travail a 

Vous pouvez me contacter 
par téléphone au (334) 798 1639 
ou par e-mail a  

Vous pouvez aussi vous abonner 
a ma lettre d'information  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mosaic Art - Portrait of a German Shepherd.

Here is an other example of a gorgeous opus pixellatum mosaic pet portrait.

Amy Galbavy is the owner of Sassy Glass on line. We met last April in Atlanta where I was teaching a class on Opus Pixellatum Mosaic Portraits.

Amy and her eyes mosaic portrait.

After the class, Amy asked me to realize for her models for 3 mosaics, One of her beautiful daughter and two of her late German Shepherds who had passed not long before that.

She sent me pictures of them and I got in my design mode.

Jet was her male Shepherd.

first stage of model creation is a good resolution color picture
Jet, Male German Shepherd

From this picture I created 3 different grayscale models and eailed them to Amy so she would chose the one she best liked.

3 modes of pixellizations

Amy went for the top model. The mosaic was to be 16 x 16", realized with 8mm tiles (5/16"). 

I created the actual model and e-mailed it to Amy. 

Ths one of the 8 pages composing the full model.
First page of the model

Because she had decided to print it herself I had formatted the model to be printed on 8 standard letter size sheets (8.5 x 11").

the eight pages are assembled to produce the full 16x16" model
The 8 pages model.

Although the model was realized in Grayscale, Amy used a Sepia scale of colors to realize her mosaic. 

The artist switched from grayscale to Sepia tones.
The mosaic completed by Amy.

One of the beauties of this technique is that it allows for many variations from a same model. (See my article about Daniel Adams)

I will create for you a model of a mosaic of your pet as I did for Amy. This printed model comes with a list and quantities of the tiles needed and instructions to carry out the work. 

I am a French mosaicist

living in Headland, Alabama, USA.

My Art is about inspiring people.

You can see some of my work at

You can contact me either by phone 

at (334) 798 1639 or by email at 


You can also subscribe to my


Saturday, August 19, 2017

A mosaic portrait of Mugen, Border Collie extraordinaire.

About 12 years ago, I fell in love with Tosca, my sister’s Border Collie !

Tosca, my sister's Border Collie is exploring the bank of the Somme River in Saint Valery sur Somme, Picardie, Northern France.
Tosca in Saint Valery sur Somme, France.

About a year later, a friend of mine having located a breeder with puppies not to far from home,  I went there to look at them. I wanted a black and white female like Tosca. I ended up with a Red Male...

Border Collies are considered the smartedt breed of dogs, they also are extremely loving creatures, but they need lots of exercise.
Mugen, 3 month old.

I named him Mugen – a Japanese words meaning Endless or Infinity.

A loving and cheerful companion, Mugen had an endless creativity. Life never was boring around him ! 

Border Collies are extremely creative and energetic dogs, they need lots of exercise to channel their energy, without exrcise, they end up destroying things..
Mugen loved water and destroyed a few water hoses...

Extremely loving and sociable, he knew everyone in the neighborhood and everybody knew him, cooked for him, invited him to play, drive, spend the night and they would drive him home. I was just known as Mugen’s Dad...

Although very versatile dogs, Border Collie would rather avoid the direct sun of Alabama.
Mugen, 5 years old

When Mugen accidentally died in 2014 I was heartbroken...

Since I have this year created several mosaic models of beloved pets for their owners, I decided to build a mosaic to celebrate Mugen’s memory, based on the above picture of him.

This is the picture I worked from :

Eyes of Mugen, Red Border Collie, picture used to create a mosaic model.
Mugen's Eyes.

Using my Opus Pixellatum technique to realize this project, I created a model and had it printed.

This Opus Pixellatum model is composed of numbers referencing colors of tiles to use to build the mosaic.
Opus Pixellatum model for the Mugen Mosaic.

I installed the model under a sheet of transparent vinyl on a bench in my studio. 

The printed model is laid under a clear vinyl sheet.
The model under its vinyl sheet.
I cut a piece of fiberglass mesh to be glued on top of it (the dark rectangle on the bench above the model)

And started to glue my tesserae on top of the mesh. 

A mesh is glued on top of the vinyl covering the model, the tiles are then glued on that mesh. You can see the model through the mesh and vinyl.
The Mugen Mosaic, first tesserae laid.

I first lay every other tesserae, because it helps the glue set faster, and also because it allows me to later use - if I decide to do so -  colors different from what is called by the model. This is one of the many variations allowed by Opus Pixellatum

50 % of the tesserae - tiles are first laid living gaps in between to allow variations later on.
Mugen Mosaic, 50 % of tesserae laid. 

At this stage, I have to lay the remaining tesserae, I will use some iridescent tiles in lieu of the regular ones to complete the piece. Once everything is set, I will remove the enmeshed mosaic from the model, glue it to its support, and grout it. That will happen in the next article...

Tiles used for this mosaic are 8 mm recycled glass tiles from Mosaic Art Supply

If you would like to build yourself a mosaic portrait of your pet, I will create a model of it from your picture. This printed model comes with a list and quantities of the tiles needed and instructions to carry out the work. 

Beside the fact that such mosaic will end up costing you a fraction of the cost of a regular piece, you will have the great joy and satisfaction of building yourself a faithful and long lasting portrait of the beloved creature who faithfully shares or shared your life ! 

I am a French mosaicist

living in Headland, Alabama, USA.

My Art is about inspiring people.

You can see some of my work at

You can contact me either by phone 

at (334) 798 1639 or by email at 

You can also subscribe to my

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Meet Daniel Adams, Printmaker and Mosaic Artist.

Generally, mosaic artists do not start in life as artists, and it is fascinating to discuss with them how they got into the Art. I first met Daniel Adams last April 2017 in Decatur, Georgia at a mosaic seminar co-hosted by Mosaic Art Supply. 

Printmaker and Mosaic Artist Daniel Adams carves a printing plate in his workshop at Department of Art and Designs of Harding University, Arkansas
Printmaker Artist Daniel Adams working on a plate.

I had invented my Opus Pixellatum mosaic technique in 2015 to build several portraits of the eyes of Yezidi refugees. As I assembled the mosaics, I realized the technique allowed for such a wide range of variations that I was going to need help to figure them out.

And so Joe Moorman and I co-organized this event -seminar to get people started in Opus Pixellatum by building a mosaic portrait of their own eyes.

Daniel had to spend several weeks on other projects, and after a few weeks got in a frenzy and created many mosaics based on the model from the seminar. That was exactly what I was hoping someone would do! 

Daniel kindly agreed to answer questions I had about his Art. I hope you enjoy his interview :

1. Daniel, when we first met last April in Decatur, GA, I understood that you are an Artist and an Art teacher. Can you tell us a little more about Art.

Art is a creation of humanity. Every society that is functioning has this activity as a part of it. “Art”, or the arts (visual, music, dramatic, poetic, literary, dance, etc) are expressions of the artist(s) thinking and feeling about certain subjects. The subject matter of art ranges widely including: simple observation of the natural world, mystical interpretations, religious devotion, political activism, social commentary, abstract symbolism, and deeply personal therapy. Some artists simply play around with forms (colors, compositions, lines, patterns, etc) to see what shows itself as something interesting to contemplate.

2. One day, during a trip to Greece, you got interested in Mosaic. Can you tell us what happened, and how you got started? 

I teach art and design at Harding University in Arkansas. We have a number of international programs—one of which is Harding University in Greece (HUG). We study academic subjects, such as the humanities, Biblical archeology and Modern Greek. We also explore the Greek Islands and other nations close by (Egypt, Turkey, Israel.) My interest in mosaics was piqued as we were traveling through northern Greece and came to the ruins of Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great. The stone mosaic floors of the wealthy houses that had been uncovered were amazing. 

At the beginning of the 4th century BC Pella was the largest Macedonian city. It was the birthplace of Alexander the Great in 356 BC.
Floor Pebble mosaic in a wealthy house of Pella, Macedonia

As a printmaker, many of the techniques we use to create images involve pattern and these floors were covered in intricate patterns made of stones. I had seen glass tesserae mosaics in Rome and Ravenna in Roman and Byzantine churches before. They were nice, but for some reason the effect of the repetitive stone patterns spoke to me. After the semester in Greece I returned to my normal printmaking and didn’t think much about it. 

3 - Please tell us about some of the mosaics you created - not including the Opus Pixellatum ones, we will address those later – How did you get started? And what are your main sources of inspirations? 

A few years later I had the blessing to be able to take art students to Ghana, West Africa, to paint murals in an orphanage near the southern coast of Ghana. There I fell in love with the abstract patterns of palm fronds. So once back home, I began a series of black and white prints of these fascinating patterns. 

In GhanaDaniel fell in love with patterns of palm fronds and began a series of black and white prints inspired by those trees.
Palm Frond print by Daniel Adams

And I began a mosaic to create a large piece based on palm fronds to go above the front door of our house. 

Palm Frond mosaic inspired by Palm trees from Ghana (West Africa)
Palm Frond Mosaic by Daniel Adams

After that, I have planned to do a floor mosaic at the entryway below these same doors. But I didn’t yet have enough experience to tackle an eight foot by three foot entryway. So I waited (and am still waiting.) 

This past year, as a way to get our entire church community involved in a creative activity, I proposed, planned and (the congregation) completed a three by eight foot mosaic that addresses the Grace and Truth of Christ and our privilege to shine like stars in a world filled with darkness. This was completed in April 2017.

This 8 x 3' tryptic was realized by the members of the congregation which Daniel belongs to.
Grace and Truth, 3 x 8' (1 x 2.4m) Mosaic designed by Daniel.

My inspirations for subject matter come from observations I make while traveling and from my deeply held faith.

4. As I said earlier, your investigating the many possible variations of Opus Pixellatum is exactly what I was hopping would happen after our April Mosaic Fiesta. Please tell us how you got started doing in this research and experimental work. Did you work at random, or did you have an Ariadne thread to follow?

For me, and for most formally trained artists, it is standard operating procedure to work through themes and variations and to play around with media to really get a feel for what you can say and how to manipulate the medium to best effect. Any media is like a language. The more comfortable you are with what is possible and how you can use it, the more fluid and natural your creations.

To be honest, I didn’t like the looks of the first grayscale “eye” mosaic (OP fig. 1) that we did at the workshop. My particular pixellatum pattern was a compressed value range of only five values, rather than the normal seven values that were present in the others’ projects. So the depth of value range was just not what I wanted to end up with. But I knew I had to work the process, first, in order to understand the limitations. 

Daneil was no thrilled with this first piece but kept experimenting with the model !
Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Original version.

My second attempt (OP fig. 2) was simply adding color (shades of green) and playing with a more interesting border. The framing helped and I adjusted my placement of the different values to get a “better likeness.” That one was better, but it still didn’t satisfy. 

Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Variation #2

The next variation (OP fig. 3) I decided to blow the color palette out and include multi-colored tiles of various sizes, yet maintain the values structure of the pixellatum pattern that Fredric supplied at the workshop in Georgia. This one started to jump and come alive! I decided to play up just top and bottom borders of strong black and white pattern. 

Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Variation #3

For the next one (OP fig. 4) —still following the underlying pattern— I wanted to vary colors, again, but this time more subdued earth tones—and see what would happen by adding in natural stones (like the ones I saw at Pella.) I also decided to reorganize the structure by adding in vertical bars of grayscale values to add interest. 

A few pebbles reminding of the Grandiose Pella Mosaics
Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Variation #4

The last of the theme and variation (OP fig. 5) on the workshop model was to do a triptych of the original grayscale image. I recreated the central “half” of the mosaic just as it had appeared in the first one, but then left the two side panels using common playground gravel to make a natural stone mosaic that followed the forms, but transformed them back to a more traditional look—it created an interesting dichotomy between digital and natural that I find very satisfying. With this one I also experimented with locally applied grouts of different colors to see what that would do to the final look of the piece.

Daniel also experimented with grouts of different colors on this piece.
Opus Pixellatum Eyes Mosaic Portrait - Variation #5

5. How do you now feel about the variations allowed by Opus Pixellatum?  Would you recommend the technique to mosaic beginners? 

I think for untrained individuals who are wanting to explore mosaic in a more structured way, Opus Pixellatum gives them the confidence to move from simply “filling in the dots” to exploring how variations and personal choices change the status quo, and how that can be so exciting. 

Remember that Vincent van Gogh created between 36-39 self-portraits in a three-year time span (1886-1889). We learn through doing and repetition. Hey, if it’s good enough for Vincent, it’s good enough for me!

6. Joe Moorman and I are considering launching an open Opus Pixellatum Challenge. We provide a model and an indicative list of tiles for people to use, like you have done with the model of your eyes. This way we should be able to see a great number of variations from a unique model. How do you feel about this? 

I think this would be great fun. Do I understand that this would be the same model for everyone and then they would all just go at it, approaching it in their own unique way?

Many mosaics have been realized in the world based on this image, We plan to release a Opus Pixellatum model for people to experiment with it.
Possible model for Opus Pixellatum mosaic challenge

That's exactly what we have in mind. I am considering using the picture above as model, as several people have created many variations of her already. We believe this would allow people to realize the potential of this technique for improvisation  ! 

7. Daniel, do you think your Etchings and Mosaic techniques have influenced each other in your Art?

I am just beginning to explore the connections between how I have been creating prints over the years (both etchings and relief prints) and the aesthetic challenges posed by mosaics. I have been working on a series of glass block window relief prints for about eight years now. (RP figs below). I am exploring light with these prints. I’d like to see what I can do with this same pursuit of light with mosaic tiles.

Sunset - Relief Print.

8. What are your goals, Art wise, for the next 2 years? 

My artistic goals for the next two years are to continue exploring light and composition through the glass block series (both print and mosaic) and to see how I can combine my third love —sketch notes— into a larger format using printing techniques, large drawing and possibly mosaic drawing (much like Marc Chagall’s walls in Chicago—but not that large!

Afternoon Warmth - Relief Print

9. Where can we see your Etchings and Mosaics? Please provide links so we can enjoy your work.

One of the issues with the obsession to create is the lack of attention to my personal website. The work represented on captures a good history of the past 15-20 years of my printmaking work.

You can follow me on :

It is Instagram where my most recent creative activities first show up.

10. Any word of advice or encouragement for people new to mosaics? 

Be very curious! Ask the question, “What if…?” Be okay with slowing down and taking your time to place tiles. Don’t be upset if your piece doesn’t match up to the vision in your head—your head is always far beyond what your present skills can accomplish. Use that frustration to spur you on to keep trying, keep adjusting, keep producing. Don’t stop after the first one and think “I can check that off my list.” Your first one is just the turning of the knob and barely opening the door into a new and different experience. You see, with the amount of mosaics I have under my belt, I’ve barely crossed over the threshold into the next room.

Great advice Daniel, Thank you very much !

I am a French mosaicist
living in Headland, Alabama, USA.
My Art is about inspiring people.
You can see some of my work at

You can contact me either by phone 
at (334) 798 1639 or by email at 
You can also subscribe to my

la la la !