Mosaics And Mosaic Tile
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Mosaics. — The origin of the art of producing artistic designs by setting small square pieces of stone or glass of different colors, so as to give the effect of painting, is obscure, but it was much practiced by the Romans, especially for ornamental pavements, specimens of which are almost always found wherever the remains of an old Roman villa are discovered. Under the Byzantine empire it was also much used for the ornamentation of churches, in which it formed a large portion of the wall decoration. Christian mosaics admit, says one writer, of two general divisions, the later Roman and the Byzantine styles, the material in use being, in general, cubes of colored glass, inlaid, in the Roman school, on a ground of blue and white, although in the latter the tessera are frequently irregular in size and the workmanship coarse. The former style flourished in Italy chiefly in the fifth and sixth centuries, the most splendid specimens being found in the churches of Rome and Ravenna. The Florentine mosaic dates from the time of the Medici, and is made entirely of precious or semi-precious stones, such as amethyst, agate, jasper, onyx, and others, cut and inlaid in forms or thin veneers best suited to produce the effects desired. The objects represented are most frequently birds, flowers, fruits, vases, sometimes buildings, and, more rarely, portraits and landscapes. In reference to the present Roman mosaics, it may be said that the small cubes of colored glass which compose the pictures are stuck into the cementing paste, or mastic, in the same manner as were the colored glass, stone, and marble sectilia and tesserae of the ancients. Within quite recent years mosaics of surpassing beauty, both in design and material, have been produced by Russian artists in the Imperial Glass Manufactory of Russia.