Stone on stone – Mosaic art

Since ancient times, the mosaic has a well-known artistic technique of making different shapes, characters and motifs by stacking pieces of stone, glass or glazed ceramics. Its specificity and high artistic value have placed itself at the very top of the forms of creative expression, making some of the most striking and magnificent buildings in the world adorned with impressive mosaics, which to this day cause admiration of the spectator with its undeniable beauty. Although the mosaic in the past could only be seen on public buildings such as courtyards and cathedrals, surfaces such as pavements in front of important institutions (universities, libraries) and sometimes in castles – the homes of the most powerful and richest, the logic that this technique is exclusively related only for capital public works, however, presents a completely limited approach. True to the will, this approach has its historical foundation in the fact that once the rental of artists, mosaics masters, was indeed the exclusive right of the state.

It has historical currents that mosaic formation unreasonably binds to the Arab and Islamic world in general, mainly because eastern artists are happy to use this technique when decorating many buildings. However, oriental art has experienced its own flourishing, in the form that is most recognizable to us, only with the establishment of Islam as a religion during the 7th century AD. At that moment, the mosaic has existed for several centuries, because in the ancient times, more specifically in Old Rome, two most famous and most common types of mosaics – opus tesselatum and opus vermiculatum – were differentiated between the size and type of pieces used in the making. At first, mosaics are made of colored gravel in original, natural size, but since 200 BC. The pebbles are replaced by cut dice of various types of stone (very often marble or limestone), which are still known today as Tessera.

Hence the name for the first type of mosaic, opus tesselatum, made of stone, whose parts were not all of the same size, and binder was visible binder. The second type, the opus vermiculatum, is composed of smaller blocks of stone, glass or glazed ceramics, which are generally of the same size and closely interconnected, with discrete joints. The split between the aforementioned two periods in the development of the mosaic technique (before and after 200 BC) is not of a banally technical nature, but is a distinction between two artistic styles – one that with the use of stone in its original form carried with it a note of symbiosis with nature and a dose of leisureness in accepting things such as those of the latter marking the tessera (also known as the abaculus) as parts that the artist “tailor” at their sole discretion, drawing from them the whole of clear lines, which in turn, puts it in certain frames and subordinates certain rules.