mosaics from Turkey

The modernity of ancient mosaics

Man hugging his dog. Great Palace Mosaic Museum, Istanbul. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Many years ago, when I lived and worked in Egypt, I spent a week in the Cairo museum researching an article about it’s 100th anniversary. My apartment was close by and I would nip in through a side entrance bypassing the crowds and spend hours wandering through it’s musty, less frequented galleries. I was allowed to go into the conservation room and try on ancient pharaonic jewellry and I had all the time I wanted alone with the spookily alive Fayoum portraits.

Bardo Museum. dog and worker.
Dog and worker. Bardo Museum, Tunisia.

Such delights are hard to forget but it was in the Tutankhamen exhibition that I remember having that feeling which ancient things can give you – of hopping over a barrier of time and seeing, not the objects themselves or their beauty or oldness, but the people who used and held them. It was the hinge of Tutankhamen’s folding bed that did it for me. A hinge: utilitarian, practical, simple and unchanged over thousands of years. No more or less a hinge than all the hinges we use in our daily lives. Never mind all that gold – it was the hinge that I loved. Continue reading

Weird and wonderful: my top ten strange ancient mosaics

odd mosaics. no accreditation.

The Romans: sticklers for conformity

When it comes to home decor, the Romans were sticklers for conformity. If you amassed a fortune, there were two things you had to do: one, get yourself a sprawling villa in a prime location. Two, call in the mosaic team. But it was de rigueur to keep to the pattern book. From one end of the vast empire to the other, from the drizzling hills of Roman Britain to the sizzling plains of Antioch, the designs and themes of ancient mosaics show striking similarities. The images that appear most often are hunting scenes, depictions of wild animals, of mythological characters, of masked actors and of gladiatorial battles. Continue reading

Great Palace Mosaic Museum, Istanbul

NB: The Great Palace Mosaic Museum will be closed for two years from 2016 for resoration and refurbishment.

Great Palace Mosaic Museum: the facts.

For once, I will stick to the facts. Confronted with mosaics of such beauty and intricacy, covering so great an area, made so long ago and depicting such an extraordinary range of subjects, I don’t even know where to begin. So I wont try. Look at the photos, break open your piggy bank, cajole your bank manager, have another look behind the back of the sofa, and book your flight now. The Great Palace Mosaic Museum of Istanbul is simply not to be missed.

DSCN6393 Continue reading