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Roman Stone Mosaic of Ivy Vine - Heart-Shaped Leaves

Roman, the Levant, late Imperial Period, ca. 3rd to 5th century CE. An elegant mosaic presenting a meandering tendril of heart-shaped ivy leaves. The design is comprised of square and triangular stone tesserae in hues of sunny yellow, russet red, and dove grey against a creamy white ground with a linear grey groundline to help focus the eye on the composition. Size: mosaic measures 72.375" W x 19" H (183.8 cm x 48.3 cm); 76.375" W x 22.25" H (194 cm x 56.5 cm) including matrix and metal 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. In ancient Rome, ivy was a symbolic of intellectual achievement, and ivy wreaths were used to crown the winners of poetry contests and the like.

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. Ivy was oftentimes associated with Bacchus - god of wine, the grape harvest, and theatricality. In addition, mosaics were created to fit the theme of a building or room. Perhaps, given this association, this piece was intended for a dining room where wine would be enjoyed or a theatre. It is also possible that it was intended for an ancient library given ivy's association with intellectual prowess.

Condition: Expected surface wear with minor losses, nicks, fissures, and abrasions to tesserae commensurate with age. Set in a modern plaster matrix with a metal frame.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection

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