I have added the articles on creating mosaic floors in a Roman villa reconstruction onto the website under one heading page. You can find that here http://bit.ly/2CFwt65
Volume 1, Roman Mosaics – The Rules is now available as a PDF to download, 59 pages, the main text on making copies of Roman mosaics. £8.00 and you receive the download link on payment.
When you looking to make a copy of a Roman mosaic you do need to look out for those that have been restored. This example is from from the Archaeological Museum in Barcelona. I don’t recall anything saying it had been subject to restoration but if you look at the figures eyes and hair I would say it has.
If a mosaic has been restored it should be made very clear which areas are original and which are guesswork on the part of the restorers. Here you have a figure looking over to the left yet his eyes are set as if he would be face on to the viewer.
I’ve been busy writing out the workshop manual for using a staff (Volume III) and one very important thing that comes up for me is that marking individual tesserae on there should only be something you refer to at the beginning.
You need the centre tesserae marked (and you will use this in geometric patterns all the time) but the whole point of working in the way that I suggest is so you develop your eye. You want to be able to look at a space and know how many tesserae will fit in it without having to use a visual aid. This is something that you need for both figural and geometric work.
Use a guide such as a spacer block or markings on a staff to help you but try to move away from using them when you can. In time you will be able to look at a space and know exactly how many lines will fit.
The mosaics found at Zeugma in Turkey have always been held up as some of the best examples of figurative mosaic work. By and large I’d agree with that, but lets take a closer look at one and see what it can tell us about the mosaicists involved. You will be able to see the result of many hands at work, of differing standards and skills. The first image is as it is, just look at that and see what comes up. Then look at the second one with highlight lines to show certain discrepancies.
This is ‘Euphrates’, the centre detail of a mosaic which formed the bottom of a shallow pool and is dated to 2nd – mid 3rd century AD.
1. The face is done well, with the classic Zeugma style with a lot of triangles being used.
2. Now look at the position of the head on the shoulders, not quite central is it?
3. His left arm (A) is out of proportion, shoulder to elbow is much shorter than elbow to wrist. Look also at the shape of elbow to wrist, also there doesn’t seem to be a wrist.
4. Top of thigh to knee (B) should equal knee to base of foot yet is longer, not by much but enough to be noticeable.
5. His right leg, (C), the angle of his foot doesn’t match in with how his thigh would lie. Also using the lighter tesserae on the folds draws the eye to see the right leg going up to his left thigh.
6. His right hand (D) isn’t done to the same level of skill as his face.
This is not to deride the mosaic itself but more to show how this work could have been like a production line with different workers moving it to do different parts. Notice the difference in tesserae size between his mantle cloth and his body. You have to wonder if the head was done, then the body was done by another mosaicist then the mantle by others who weren’t so accomplished in figure work. Lastly we have to remember that these mosaics are done with the mosaicist working very close to something that is designed to be seen from standing position. ideally you need to keep stepping back from your work to check how it appears. That’s fine if you’re working at a table but not so easy if you’re on your knees or sitting on the floor!
So when you look at figure mosaics look at them from an anatomical perspective as well as stylistic impression.