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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. 

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