Mosaics of Roman Africa: Floor Mosaics from Tunisia

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9780807614112: Mosaics of Roman Africa: Floor Mosaics from Tunisia

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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Language Notes:

Text: English
Original Language: French

From Publishers 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.

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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