The Mosaics of Rhodes, Greece (or How Mosaics Should be Seen)
The conversation went a bit like this:
D: There are some really good off-season deals on flights to the islands. Shall we go?
D: Santorini or Rhodes?
Me: (Inner musing: Santorini = the whole Greek thing. White washed houses set on cliffs over looking azure seas. Rhodes = mosaics) Rhodes!
And so off we went one weekend to see the mosaics of Rhodes, Greece. As it happens, Rhodes is a perfect place to really see mosaics, not just the tarted up ancient variety which now hang on museum walls. Pebble mosaics, characteristic of many of the Greek islands, are everywhere in the medieval town of Rhodes covering pavements, shop entrance ways, hotel foyers and cafe floors. What a delight! Instead of cranning your neck to see mosaics plucked from their original settings and displayed like works of art in hushed settings or having to lean precariously over a barrier to get a closer view of them at archeological sites, here they are all over the place. Neither revered or disregarded; they are just there. Continue reading →
Not so long ago I wrote a post about why I started making mosaics and called on everyone out there – fellow mosaic obsessives – to tell me what attracted you to the medium and what keeps you here, painstakingly cutting and placing, when you could be making big bold statements with fantastically coloured acrylics or stroking clay into marvellous shapes. Mosaics are limited. The palette is what it is – you cant stretch it out by adding a dot of this and a dab or that and mistakes once made are in many cases hopelessly irredeemable. The materials are often expensive, the time taken to produce even a modest work is ludicrous and the horror of being required to dump dollops of gloopy grout over your completed masterpiece is enough to deter all but the most committed. So why do we make mosaics? I told you why I do (a mixture of mosaic making being a compulsion which I cant control and the necessity of finding occupation in a new country with no language to express myself) and now it’s over to you….
There’s a fizz in the air. A crackle of excitement. Something is about to happen. Something big (we hope).
First an unopened tomb dating from the time of Alexander the Great was found at Amphipolis in Greece (go here for a 3D video of the tomb’s structure). Tombs from this period have been found before but this is something different. The tumulus covering it is huge – the largest ever found – and the walls surrounding it are capped with fine white marble. Next, things began to emerge. Two sphinxes were unearthed under the entry arch. Draped female stone figures, known as caryatids, were found on either side of a chamber door. Then, last week, part of a pebble mosaic, measuring 4.5 metres by 3 metres, was revealed and the rest of the mosaic was cleared a few days later. Mosaics in a tomb! Whatever next? Continue reading →
As you might have gathered by now, I have a bit of a mosaic fetish going on. You could even call it a problem. When I am not making mosaics, or fiddling about with designs, I have to admit I can often be found rummaging through photographs on Flickr and Pinterest in a furtive compulsion to look at them.
Many of the more unusual ancient Roman mosaic images come from the Ancient Rome Facebook page and there are also wonderful images posted in the Flickr Antiques Mosaiques group for which I am very grateful, not to mention the ones which turn up on Pinterest which I jealously hoard on my Ancient Mosaics board.
There are abundant examples of wild animals in some of the oldest mosaics but big cats turn up more than most. Their obvious qualities of ferocity and beauty made them ideal candidates for the mosaic medium but their representation is varied, rangeing from the macabre:
To the tender:
Among the most famous and extraordinary mosaics featuring big cats are the ones of Pella, Greece (top). Made of finely calibrated pebbles, these mosaics date back almost 2,500 years and show Alexander the Great strutting his manly stuff out in the forests of Macedonia, hunting lions without a stitch on or a care in the world before vaulting on the back of an obliging leopard:
Ah, but they are just the beginning. Here is a random selection of ancient mosaics and big cats:
(formerly Athens, Greece)
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Helen Miles Mosaics
I learnt how to make mosaics with Greek masters of the craft in Thessaloniki and Athens who taught using traditional methods with a focus on Byzantine iconography. Later, I become fixated with Roman designs and now my aim is to preserve the simplicity and directness of early mosaics while creating pieces which suit our modern lives.