Mosaics of Roman Africa: Floor Mosaics from Tunisia

Overview

During the days of the Roman Empire, between the second and sixth century A.D., some of the most spectacular mosaics in the history of art were created in the area largely comprised by present-day Tunisia. Ironically, these mosaics were designed as floor pavements, to be walked upon by the patrons that commissioned them as well as the public. Designed and produced by workshops staffed with master artists and skilled artisans, the floors were commissioned by provincial aristocrats seeking to display their social ...
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Overview

During the days of the Roman Empire, between the second and sixth century A.D., some of the most spectacular mosaics in the history of art were created in the area largely comprised by present-day Tunisia. Ironically, these mosaics were designed as floor pavements, to be walked upon by the patrons that commissioned them as well as the public. Designed and produced by workshops staffed with master artists and skilled artisans, the floors were commissioned by provincial aristocrats seeking to display their social status and opulent lifestyles. The mosaics abound with images of exuberant plant forms, with animals both real and imaginary, and with individuals - nobles, farmers, hunters, chariot drivers, and wrestlers - going about their daily activities. Watching over them are the various divinities: Neptune with his Nereids, images of the muses, Venus and her entourage. As few paintings survive from this period, mosaics remain our richest legacy of the magnificent lifestyles enjoyed in northern Africa at the beginning of the millennium.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Imagine entering a triclinium or banquet hall in Roman Africa and finding that beneath your feet is one of the world's most stunning mosaic masterpieces. Flourishing in Mediterranean Africa between the second and sixth centuries A.D., this art created from shards of marble or limestone stands as one of the more durable artistic media. While the text offers conjectural interpretations meticulously bolstered by lively historical evidence that illuminates the everyday life of Roman Africa, the real focus of this book is the magnificent collection of more than 200 color illustrations divided into chapters headed by the subject matter of various mosaics "Spectacles"; "Eternal Time and Cyclical Time". Despite the growing power of Christianity this was, after all, the native land of St. Augustine, the decorative program is decidedly pagan. Not only are the deities pagan, whether Roman or local in provenance, but the other subjects have ancient Greco-Roman roots as well. One example is the asarotos oikos theme, in which elements of a meal are spread out over the floor, most spectacularly in an almost trompe l'oeil scattering of kitchen scraps from the House of Salonin at Oudna. Other mosaics chronicle the lives of the rich nobles who commissioned them and as such depict many current hot-button issues of race and colonialism, albeit highly allegorically, and are room-size works in which the microcosmic patrician estates are shown to reflect complex ethnic and social hierarchies. Clearly a celebration of life and wealth, the mosaics continue to provide a feast of wonder. Dec.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807614112
  • Publisher: Braziller, George Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/1996
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 11.65 (w) x 13.26 (h) x 2.01 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 11
I Africa, Rome, and the Empire 17
II Eternal time and cyclical time 37
III Xenia and banquets 65
IV Dionysus 87
V The sea: fish, ships, and gods 121
VI Venus, toilette and triumph 147
VII Life on the great estates 167
VIII Spectacles 189
IX Muse, tell me the cause ... 219
X Myths and decorations 249
Map and Plans 281
Table of Illustrations 285
Selected Bibliography 296
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