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303 artworks, 80 artists
Mosaic (lat. (opus) musivum — (work) dedicated to the muses) is a type of decorative and applied technique for creating plane images of small multi-colored pieces of glass, ceramics or stone on a base covered with plaster or other binding solution. This is a very old art form: its first examples date back to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC. Usually the walls and floors of living quarters were decorated with mosaics. The heyday of this decorative technique fell on the epoch of Ancient Rome.
One of the first mosaic elements consisted of fired clay cones, which were laid upside down in a thick layer of mortar. Patterns of multi-colored pebbles were popular, this technique was used by the Greeks. In both America and the Oriental countries, the incrustation of decorative art objects with various materials, such as plates of ivory, mica, volcanic glass or mother-of-pearl, was widespread. In ancient Egypt, mosaic decorations for interiors and household items of precious wood, bone, and stone were popular.
In the period of antiquity, the art of mosaic made a step forward: for laying out patterns and paintings, they used multicolored different-sized cubic pebbles of natural stones of various natural colors and shades. The artists developed a system of direct mounting of parts of the same size, which is still one of the main techniques for laying out mosaic pictures. The basis was a lime solution. The panels, laid out on the walls and floors of houses in Ancient Rome and Greece, were primarily functional and protected the housing from excess moisture. Moreover, the higher was the position of the house owner, the more exquisite were its mosaics. In some cases, along with the direct image mounting through pressing the mosaic pieces into the mortar, another technique was used, called the inverse mounting. The artist laid out the mirrored picture on a flat surface, and then poured the mortar on it. After solidification, the panel was turned over and the finished panel was installed in its place. This technique is only used for small images.
Byzantine mosaics succeeded the Roman traditions; it mainly adorned temple buildings. The style of images has become more formalized, far from the realism of antiquity. The monumentality of the Byzantine mosaics is quite striking — it comprises hundreds of square meters of richly decorated temple walls and domes, some of which have survived to our time. The material for them was smalt — opaque colored glass. The new man-made material for creating mosaics gave artists greater freedom of choice of color, material thickness, and the size of the details used to create the picture.
The Renaissance era gave Europe the Florentine mosaic, which used natural stone again. The art of the mosaic artist supposed the skilful selection of the natural texture of the material and its masterly combination. Ornamental stones brought from various countries and even continents were added to the marble. When creating this type of mosaic, much attention was paid to the art of polishing the surface of stones artists used to mount a picture or panel.
Some Pre-Raphaelites, in particular, William Morris and Edward Coley Burne-Jones used the art of creating paintings and patterned panels in their creative activities. They liked not only stained glass windows painting, but also mosaics mounting. A remarkable use of this art in the decoration of public spaces is Park Güell in Barcelona, created by the architect Antoni Gaudí in 1914. Most of the objects created by him are decorated in Gaudí’s favourite trencadis technique — mosaics of shards of glass and ceramics. A little more than 60 years later ago, the same technique was used by the Italian Niki de Saint Phalle when she created another sculpture garden — the Tarot Garden in the south of Tuscany.
Significant works of mosaic artists: Standard of Ur. Ca. 2600—2400 BC. The British museum Mosaics of Ravenna: Church of Sant Apollinare Nuovo, early 6th century; San Vitale, 546—547; Basilica di Sant'Apollinare in Classe, 549 Mosaics of Hagia Sophia, Constantinople