In ancient times, mosaics decorated luxurious homes and public buildings across the Roman Empire. Intricate patterns and figural scenes were created by setting small pieces of stone or glass, called tesserae, into floors and walls. Scenes from mythology, daily life, nature, and arena spectacles enlivened interior spaces and reflected the cultural ambitions of wealthy patrons.
Introduced by itinerant craftsmen, mosaic techniques and designs spread widely, leading to variety of regional styles. The mosaics in this exhibition date from the 2nd through the 6th centuries A.D., presenting the artistry of mosaics as well as the contexts of their discovery throughout the Mediterranean region -- from the Empire’s center in Italy to the provinces in North Africa, southern Gaul, and Syria. Drawn primarily from the Getty Museum's collection, the exhibition offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience these splendid objects in all their visual and cultural magnificence. Recovered from various archeological contexts, they provide a glimpse into the richly embellished architecture of the ancient world.
Says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, “This exhibition presents the largest and most impressive mosaics in the Museum’s collection, some of which will be on view for the first time. Their rich colors, intricate decorative patterns, and vivid depictions of scenes from mythology and everyday life are almost as fresh today as when they were first made two thousand years ago."
Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, Roman Mosaics in the J. Paul Getty Museum, documents all of the mosaics in the Getty Museum’s collection, presenting their artistry in new color photography as well as the contexts of their discovery and excavation across Rome's expanding empire—from its center in Italy to provinces in southern Gaul, North Africa, and ancient Syria. The collection reveals the diversity of compositions found throughout the Roman Empire during this period.
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