Ch.10 : The Mosaic  

 Pompeian house liked to complete her toilet by a profusion of decorative mosaics.  It is not a mansion, rich and noble, which is an exception to the rule.  Even the most humble houses are decorated with mosaics, naturally more modest, the wealth of decorative patterns in the mosaic floors is virtually inexhaustible.  The type, simple and primitive in "cocciopesto" (opus signinum), we move gradually, through some examples of "lithôstroton" formed small white stones, marbled colored stones, the mosaic, black and white or full color enriched with a variety of geometric designs and, often, scenes and symbols referring to nature, or hunting, or navigation, or to the gymnastic games.

Sometimes the center of the noblest parts of a rich house, the pavement is adorned with a mosaic, a more careful technique, whose exotic subject betrays the influence and often handmade mosaic of Alexandria.  Later, at the time of the Flavian, the mosaic will be replaced by inlays floors (opus sectile), rare marbles inlays forming geometrical designs.  As for wall decoration, manifests a marked predilection for the color accent that characterizes all the last period of the existence of Pompeii.

The opus signinum represents the oldest type of ground decoration.  We discovered many traces in Pompeii before Sylla;  it is a pavement comprising fragments of bricks and amphora driven into a layer of lime which is also inserted white tesserae "palombino" to create a sequence of regular points or a carpet with geometric patterns.

At the same time one sees the emblemata, that is to say small central panels, formed of tiny tesserae of several colors, which are reproduced scenes modeled on the models of the great Greek painting.  At the time of Sulla, the mosaics are not immune to date resulting in the II style decorative paints;  they also provide us with trompe l'oeil perspectives through the boxes where the color of the tesserae gradually deteriorates, lozenges reticles the cubic edges and meanders perspective format.

Towards the end of the Republican age mosaics are simple, black and white;  they form geometric patterns (hourglasses, 8 wedges stars) or have characters inserted into wavy edges, teeth of wolf and chess boards.  From simple geometric mosaics also characterized the first part of the Imperial Age;  from Claudius and Nero traditional decorative elements regain the upper hand and invade the composition while in the mosaics depicting characters we discover the play of light that are a conquest of painting from the same era, that of the fourth style.

The period of the first style was the heyday in Pompeii mosaics.  Before coating the walls with precious marbles of varying colors, the East had covered large painted figures.  Bare marbled walls was a reaction against this mode.  Driven out of the walls, the characters took refuge on the floor and, with them, the polychrome ornamentation.

Major topics adorned in the center of the floor rooms, and around the main subject on the door sills, around impluviums, flourished, with their varied colors, flowers, wreaths, vines, of fruit, grapes, ribbons, masks, divine attributes of small subjects. Geometric designs, black on white, with great finesse, a tiny variety of combinations, lay down on the floor of every room as rich carpets.  This art was, as well as painting the walls, its phases and its evolution for nearly three centuries.

The most beautiful, most famous as mosaics of Pompeii is one that, at the bottom of the peristyle house of the Faun adorned the exedra.  In the subject it represents, it was recognized the battle of Alexander.  This mosaic reproduction of an old painting perhaps contemporary events, is full of life. the study of the types, costumes and armor is full of interest;  but disappears before the tragic scene, three characters, which, far more than the whole battle, forms the subject of the painting.  At the end of the mosaic, left, Alexander discovered the head, his helmet falls being in the heat of battle, pierced with a spear, a leader of the army of Darius who was fighting in front of the tank his sovereign.  Half fell on his horse spilled the dying seizes full hand spear entering his chest.  The driver of the chariot of Darius carries his master galloping horses and torn from death. Darius, in his powerlessness, pressed his left hand to the back of the chariot which leads, bends, stretching, with indescribable anguish, right arm towards the unarmed warrior, perhaps his friend, that it will never see again.

The architrave of the exedra was based on two Corinthian columns and two red pillars between which a mosaic threshold represented the Nile and the animals that live at its edges and in its waters: ibis, hippo, crocodile, uraeus, and the countless bands birds of many colors which even today, landing on its sandbanks.  Mosaics and paintings offering Egyptian subjects are not rare in Pompeii: the art of Pompeii, in fact, was Alexandrian. We must not forget that, by frequent phenomenon of all time, following the battle of Antium, throughout the Roman territory, representations of Egyptian subjects became the fashion and multiplied. Comme autrefois  As before the influence of the East, the Roman influence also drove the Pompeians in imitation of the arts of Egypt.

Two other mosaics of a beautiful art signed by Discordes Samos and which include the comedy scenes, decorated the villa called Villa of Cicero.
The thresholds of the doors, we said, often adorned with mosaics;  the House of the Faun offers us a good example. Whoever crossed the threshold of the corridor overlooking the atrium entrance into a mosaic representing trod, with a strong relief, tragic masks, grapes, wreaths, flowers and fruits.  The mosaic also lent itself to simpler decorations: a small square inscribed in the center of a large plain mosaic decorated with geometric designs or received the main subject.

Thus in one room of the house of the Labyrinth, amid the meanders of the labyrinth, a small painting shows Theseus and the Minotaur winner, behind him, the young men and virgins of Greece as his courage saved.  Near the door of Vesuvius, a mosaic representing the Academy of Plato. Still in the House of the Faun, one of the most beautiful mosaics of Pompeii, a bacchanalian spirit riding a panther, adorned the center of the pavement of a triclinium.  Amid the alae of the atrium of the same house, doves with their bills strung a pearl necklace they derive a cassette, a cat, which was introduced in the middle of victuals, devouring a quail.

Lon and see the mosaic down to the genre paintings and even lend itself to curious fantasies: that of a triclinium is covered ground peelings, bones, everything would have been able to drop down the guests careless.  Recently it was found on the floor of a house in the sixth region, a female portrait that would not have disowned a painter.  The mosaic is not always confined to decorate the floors of the houses.  It covered, as we have already noted, its shiny glass cubes sometimes giving the illusion of email, fountains and columns;   she took possession of the walls and even on a garden wall of the house of Apollo, mosaics represented subjects dear to the painters of Pompeii: Achilles Scyros unveiled by the cunning of Odysseus, the wrath of Achilles, the three Graces.  The first of these three areas is still in place.


Ch.11 : Inscriptions and Graffitis ...