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  • If you want to search for a subject in the Mosaic Matters website, go to Google and type subject

  • Despite appearances glass is actually a liquid, not a solid, because it lacks the stiff crystalline structure characteristic of true solids. That's why glass shatters at a blow and slowly deteriorates when exposed to moisture.

  • Some people claim that the reverse (indirect, off-site) method of making mosaics was invented in the 19th century by Salviati in Venice. Others say it was invented by Gian Domenico Facchina. In fact this technique was well-known at that time in North Africa and the Levant. On the other hand it does seem certain that the ancient Greeks and Romans never used reverse but worked direct on site – for example, preliminary sketches were found etched in the setting bed underneath the Lod mosaic in Israel (c. AD 300). The Byzantines, successors to the Romans, likewise used the direct method. There was a bizarre period in the twentieth century when certain academics thought the Byzantines used the reverse method. One Ernest Hawkins eventually put those academics right.

  • The colour of gold mosaic tesserae – "antique", "lemon", etc. – is entirely due to the colour of the cartellina, the thin layer of glass on top of the gold. The gold leaf beneath is just ordinary 24 carat gold.

  • Over two thousand Roman mosaics have been discovered in Britain , and the four volumes of The Roman Mosaics of Britain by David Neal and Stephen Cosh record every one, with a detailed painting of each.

  • Since c. 3000 BC glass has been used for making various objects. It was (and often still is) made from a mixture of:

1) sand (silica, SiO2) and

2) soda (sodium carbonate, Na2CO3) to act as a "flux", i.e. to lower the melting point of the silica and make it more manageable, and

3) lime (calcium oxide, CaO, generally from limestone, CaCO3), to make the glass stable.

Metallic oxides were (and are) added to make the glass colourless or give it a particular colour or make it opaque (e.g. for mosaics).

  • The earliest known use of gold tesserae was in AD 55, in the Gardens of Lucullus by the Spanish Steps in Rome.

  • You can if you wish design mosaics on a pc. Programs vary from the simple ("Make a Roman mosaic online") to the sophisticated (Corel Painter). Incidentally it's instructive trying out the effect of different coloured grouts at the click of a mouse.

  • If you see red tesserae streaked with black in a Byzantine mosaic, it's because they were trying to make red tesserae and it went wrong.

  • Underneath the crypt of St Peter's in Rome is "the Necropolis", a street of 2nd and 3rd century Roman "sepulchre houses", some of which have superb mosaics, including Christ as the Sun God. At the end of this street, directly below the high altar and Michelangelo's dome, lies the grave of St. Peter.

  • Byzantine mosaicists first painted full colour designs on the walls, and then mosaiced them. Fresco was the poor man's wall decoration; it showed you couldn't afford the mosaicing bit....

  • In WW2, when the Allies took Ravenna they thought there were German snipers in the church of San Vitale, and prepared to attack. They were stopped by "Popski", the founder of a special forces unit, who knew there were precious sixth century mosaics inside. Popski entered and found no Germans. The mosaics, which included the wonderful portraits of the Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora, lived on untouched.

  • Opus palladianum, the crazy paving pattern, is thought to be a modern invention. There is an example in the 1902/3 ceiling of the Holy Souls chapel in Westminster Cathedral, London, and an earlier one in the Kensington Valhalla at the Victoria & Albert Museum. It was made in 1871 by Florence Cole who was taught at the Kensington School run by Minton Hollins. On the other hand it could be argued that the floors of twelfth century Treni and Otranto Cathedrals are opus palladianum. Or even the floor of the Amphipolis tomb in Greece, of the time of Alexander the Great... click here

  • Picasso designed mosaics. In 1957 he drew his first designs and these were turned into mosaic by Hjalmar Boyesen in his Cannes studio. You can learn more and see some at Mosaic Art Now and there are more in Mosaics: design, construction and assembly by Robert Williamson, 1963.

  • In 2013 it was announced that the famous Crystal Palace in London would be rebuilt. But Ben Sinclair, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph (10 October 2013), pointed out that modern sheet (float) glass is flat and lifeless compared to the handmade mouth-blown cylinder glass, made by Chance Bros & Co of Birmingham for the original Crystal Palace, which housed the 1851 Exhibition. Their material "shimmered and sparkled due to its uneven surface, whose bubbles and inclusions caught and refracted natural light during the day and artificial light by night".

    Sound familiar, smalti users?




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