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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Emperor Hadrian's Mosaic of the Doves





 


  

The Capitoline Mosaic of the Doves was discovered in 1737 during archaeological excavations of Emperor Hadrian’s Villa.


The Doves of Pliny, or the Capitoline Doves Mosaic is made only of cubes of colored marble, without any colored glass.
The Doves Mosaic unearthed in 1737 at Hadrian's Villa.


While some scholars believe this beauty is the actual Dove Mosaic built by the famous 2nd century BC Sosus of Pergamon and mentioned by Pliny in his Natural History, others believe it to be a 2nd century AD copy of it made for Hadrian.

Numerous copies were made of this mosaic, even into late antiquity. In addition to Tivoli, these have been found at Delos; at Pompeii and Capua...


Roman mosaic - doves drinking out of a cup and floral and fruits border, Opus Vermicullatum, Pompeii, 1st century AD
Doves Mosaic unearthed in Pompeii 1st century BC


In other parts of the Empire and in the Christian mausoleums of Santa Costanza in Rome and Galla Placidia in Ravenna. 


Roman Floor mosaic with central emblema showing doves drinking out of a cup and a Dramatic Svastiska border.
Doves Mosaic with svastika borders in Malta, 1st century.


 Doves (end of the 1st century BC to start of the 1st century AD) Mosaic 45 x 44.3 cm
Doves Mosaic from Ostia Antica, 1st Century BC

  
The iconography of the doves drinking from the foutain of life ("a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4, 14) is repeated four times in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, above the four arches supporting the tambour and the vaulted ceiling.
Doves Mosaic - Mausoleo of Galla Placidia, 5th Century AD




I consider the finest of all to be the emblema discovered at Hadrian’s Villa, made of thousands of very small tesserae - 2 to 3 mm squares, a technique named  opus vermiculatum, by far the most sophisticated mosaic technique.


A fragment of the outside border of this mosaic is displayed at the Musee d'Arles Antique this summer. 


Fragment of the border framing the famous Capitoline Doves mosaic diplayed at the Musei Capitolini in Rome
Fragment from the border of the Capitoline Doves mosaic


The tesserae used to build this border were no bigger than 3 mm (0.11"). Usually this size of tessera was only used for the center piece - the emblema, and regular Opus Tessellatum built from bigger tesserae was used for the borders. Hadrian was a protector of the Arts. Those kind of Chef d'Oeuvre were only assembled in a couple of very specialized workshops of the Empire by very highly skilled craftsmen.


 
Those variations of a same pattern are an other example of the way ancient musivarii worked. I believe they had  books or scrolls of models for the architets or patrons to chose from. In some cases, several patterns were mixed in a same mosaic (I will write something later about the parrot you can see in the lower right corner of the piece from Ostia...)


One reason why I am visiting many sites and museums in Europe is that I am putting together a library of geometric patterns used by the Romans. This is taking quite some time as those patterns are anything but simple. They are, however, gorgeous, and they bring to any center piece the same depth a vibrant frame brings to a painting. 



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

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at (334) 798 1639 or by email at 
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3 comments:

  1. Hello Frederic! I wanted to share a museum my husband and I visited a few years ago in Vienne, France that I absolutely love. Here is the link, if you are interested in checking it out: http://www.i-c-mosaics.com/ideas/europe/vienne-mosaic-museum.html - Thank you! Enjoy your newsletter! Lou Ann Weeks

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Lou Ann. I had planned to visit this museum during my last trip in France (2 weeks ago) but it was unfortunately closed the way i drove through Vienne. In France the great majority of museums are closed on Tuesday. Unfortunately this one was close on Monday...
      And the Gallo-Roman museum of Saint Romain en Gal, on the other side of the Rhône river, was also closed. So i kept driving... Next time !

      Lyon - Lugdunum was the capital of the Gauls for 4 or 5 centuries while Lutece (Paris) was still a little town at the beginning of the Christian Era, the amount and quality of mosaics to be seen in the area is flabbergasting !

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  2. Thank you. I had planned to visit this museum during my last trip in France but it was unfortunately closed the way i drove through Vienne. In France the great majority of museums are closed on Tuesday. Unfortunately thiss one closes on Monday...
    And the GalloRoman museum of Saint Romain en Gal, on the other side of the Rhône river, was also closed. So i kept driving... Next time !

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