Price on request
TITLE: Mosaic with a scene showing Pelops and Hippodamia
PERIOD: End of 3rd Century AD
MATERIAL: Marble tesserae
SIZE: Height 201 cm.; width 204 cm.
PRICE: Available on consultation
PROVENANCE: From a private Asian collection
CONDITION: Very good state of preservation. Intact. Without repairs.
The centre of a large floor mosaic depicting the mythological scene of the wedding of Hippodamia made using the technique of Opus tessellatum, with tesserae of marble, stone and glass.
Pelops, prince and son of Tantalus, King of Anatolia, is at the centre of the scene. He is shown standing, dressed in a yellow tunic with green pants. He is depicted gazing into the distance. Abundant locks of his hair escape from the sides of the Phrygian cap he is wearing. To his left near his head can be seen his name written in Greek. Hippodamia, daughter of Oenomaus, king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus, is shown seated in front of Pelops, and is sitting on a wooden seat with an oenochoe below it. The princess, said to be the most beautiful of her generation, is depicted embracing her husband, looking fixedly at him and holding a palm leaf in her right hand. She is wearing a himation and chiton in green and red. A golden diadem encircles her hair. Her name written in Greek is above her head. Pothos, depicted as a winged child carrying Hymen’s torch, is in front of the couple and is showing them the entrance to a door. His name is also written in Greek above his head. The figure of Pothos was deliberately chosen for this scene to point to the dramatic future of this couple. He is the son of Zephyrus and Iris and was part of the retinue of Aphrodite. The Greeks used the term pothos to refer to the type of desire that led to death. It is the desire for that which is absent, a longing, a desire that is really suffering as it can never be fulfilled. The term belongs not only to the vocabulary of love but also to that of mourning and bereavement. In Roman mythology it is known as ardor.
The scene is framed by lines of black tesserae and beyond these a geometric decoration based on triangles in a wide band.
The Romans made mosaics using small pieces called tesserae which, when of a certain size, are put together by the technique called opus tessellatum. The tesserae are cubic in shape made from calcareous rock or glass or ceramic material in different sizes. The artists placed them on a surface, and as with a puzzle, distributed them by colour and shape and stuck them together using a cementing mixture.
For the Romans, mosaics were decorative elements for architectonic spaces. Creating them became a widespread and greatly appreciated art. In the 3rd century the Emperor Diocletian issued a decree which established fixed charges that the artists could ask for their works according to previous evaluation.
At the beginning when mosaics began to be used in Rome they were mainly to decorate roofs and walls and seldom for floors as it was feared that they could not resist the constant footfalls. Later as the art reached a level of perfection, it was discovered that they could bear the traffic of feet without damage, and so the fashion of making luxury mosaics for floors began.
- J. BALTY. Mosaïques antiques du proche-orient. Annales Littéraires de l’Université de Besancon, 551.
- M.D. DUNBABIN, Katherine. Mosaics of the Greek and Roman world. Cambridge University Press, 1999.