Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mosaic Floors of Fishborne Roman Palace

Perhaps the most enduring feature of Roman villas is the mosaic tile work. There are many fine examples to be found throughout Europe. For this short article, I will focus on Fishborne Roman Palace, in Sussex, England.


Photography by Joanne Bradley

The first century mosaics at Fishborne Roman Palace demonstrate the varied skills of the artisans and enduring beauty of tile. The earliest Fishborne mosaics reflect the esthetic of the time and are fashioned in geometric patterns of black and white.


Photography by Joanne Bradley

Later mosaics contained tessera (a piece of Roman mosaic) in vibrant colors. Patterns of flowers, animals and mythical creatures were carefully crafted from the tessera. Elaborate boarders of twisted rope and curling vines frame the main designs.


Photography by Joanne Bradley

When building defects caused floor subsidence, or if the style of the time changed and the floor of an important room was no longer fashionable, a new floor was laid over the old.


Photography by Joanne Bradley

Mosaic floors prove to be surprisingly resilient to slow subsidence.


Photography by Joanne Bradley

For those with an interest in history, a mosaic floor can be a treasure trove of information. Areas of exceptional wear mark doorways. Patterns and designs can help define the time when a floor was laid and what the room was used for. The quality of the workmanship identifies the skills and experience of the mosaicists that laid them.


Photography by Joanne Bradley

Damage to the mosaics at Fishborne Roman Palace can be attributed to later building work at the palace, a fire, and farming during the Middle Ages when the palace was buried and lost. Currently, only the area of the north wing and northern half of the formal gardens at Fishborne Roman Palace are accessible. The northern half of the west and east wings are preserved beneath turf, the southern half of the palace is under private homes, gardens and roads.


Photography by Joanne Bradley

About the Author
Joanne Bradley takes an interest in architecture through the ages. Using photography to capture designs and details, she uses the images as inspiration for digital designs.

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