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Huge Roman Stone Mosaic - Dolphins and Fish

$39,995.00
Roman, the Levant, late Imperial Period, ca. 3rd to 5th century CE. A spectacular mosaic comprised of square and triangular stone tessarae depicting an aquatic scene that includes (from left to right): a large playful dolphin, a more aggressive fish swimming downward to eat a smaller fish (just look at those sharp teeth biting into that poor little guy - absolutely devouring him!), a threatening shark looming above, and a very active fish dynamically swirling in the waters below. The fish are beautifully modeled in an attractive color scheme of salmon pink, tawny beige, sienna, umber, yellow ochre, white, dove grey, charcoal, and black against a creamy white ground so as to provide a sense of three dimensionality and motion as well as anatomical details. Contributing further to the realism of the composition are floating pieces of seaweed amongst the sea creatures. Size: 52" W x 24" H (132.1 cm x 61 cm); 57.5" W x 27.8125" H (146 cm x 70.6 cm) including matrix and frame

Mosaics (opus tesellatum) are some of our most enduring images from the Roman world, exciting not only for their aesthetic beauty, but also because they reveal what Romans chose to depict and see every day decorating their private and public spaces. Aquatic and maritime subjects were popular in Greco-Roman art. One of my favorites is in the House of the Faun in Pompeii (end of 2nd century BCE, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples). Another from Piazza Armerina, room 22, depicts an entertaining scene of winged Erotes reeling in their catch (4th century CE).

In the Roman province of Syria, which encompassed most of the ancient Near East/Levant, mosaics seem to have developed as a common art form relatively late, with most finds coming from the 3rd century CE or later. Syria was one of Rome's wealthiest provinces, but it was also far removed from Rome itself and Roman culture was overlaid on enduring cultural traditions from Hellenistic Greece and the great civilizations that came before it. Antioch-on-the-Orontes (modern day Antakya, Turkey), was the capital of northern Roman Syria, and its excavations in the 1930s revealed more than three hundred mosaic pavements - of which many embellished public baths. Popular mosaic themes from this region were often mythological or religious scenes, depicting gods and goddesses; however, sometimes mosaics were created to fit the theme of a room. This one, with its aquatic theme, may have been intended for a bath.

Condition: Areas of missing tesserae from edges and to the interior. Expected surface wear commensurate with age. Set in a modern cement matrix with a metal frame.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection

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