Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mosaics of the Chrysoticlinium

The epitome of the Byzantine art form is the mosaic, whether it is in a religious context or depicting the life of a rural farmer, when I think of the Byzantine Empire I immediately envision the gleam of stained glass cubes delicately placed to create the silhouette of Christ staring into me. Having the opportunity to view the famous mosaics of the Great Palace courtyard was a special moment. As an elementary student my favorite art projects was when we took cubes of colorful construction paper to make an image for our mom on Mother’s Day. Having viewed only the images online and in a textbook I did not get to fully appreciate the intricacy of the designs that the emperor must have walked across on a daily basis one thousand years ago.

It is hard to determine my favorite mosaic because the use of colors and shadowing made nearly every image stand out and seem epic. My first picture is of a much deteriorated image of a lion attacking its prey. So much of this mosaic is lost that we only see the shadows in the muscles of the lion and the blood flowing from the victim so that a lot of this image is left to our imagination.

This mosaic immediately made me smile because it was only ten steps from the previous image where the lion was the predator. Now this image is depicting an elephant showing a lion its true strength. Once again, the coloring of the elephant’s muscles clamped around the lion’s neck is so diverse that the artist(s) of these mosaics must have spent just as much time in dying the tiles as they did in their placement.

On the far south side of the building there were many plaques and photos of the excavation and restoration of the mosaics in the Mosaic Museum. Here is an example of how the images looked prior to the color restoration process. Due to soil corrosion, pollution of the bustling city, and the salt-bearing aerosols from being so close to the sea had made the mosaics lose a lot of their true colors. However, through a recent development the excavators were able to enhance the colors with a dolomitic rock flour.

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