On one of my tours to Italy, I had the privilege to discover what makes mosaic art still so current now and was fortunate to admire one of the best examples of it in the charming town of Ravenna.
When we think of ‘mosaic art’, we probably would instinctively think of a decaying Roman villa with a few remaining examples of dull-looking mosaics, mostly laid out on floors. And yet if you have the good fortune to venture out to Ravenna, which is about 1 and half hours by train from Bologna, you’d come across mosaics so spectacular, intricate and vibrant that look so new, even though they were executed thousands of years ago!
The history of mosaic art goes back some 4,000 years or more and was used as the chosen form of decoration by the Greeks, the Romans and later on by the Byzantines, which excelled at it and have left in Ravenna some truly remarkable examples.
I have always been intrigued and totally fascinated by mosaic art and soon realised that this ancient art form was not just something belonging to a distant past and to be marvelled at with nostalgia, but that in fact it was very much alive in the present and brought back to life by a few remarkable and dedicated mosaic masters in the wonderful ‘Gruppo Mosaicisti Ravenna’, a mosaic art and conservation studio in the heart of Ravenna.
Example of a modern mosaic
These incredibly skilled artists undertake not only the restoration of ancient mosaics in churches or wherever they may be called, they also collaborate with famous designers to realise stunning mosaic projects and bringing a ‘modern’ touch to this art form.
Not even the best photo of these mosaics can truly do them justice and I can highly recommend paying a visit to this studio once in Ravenna and observing these artists in action, who will tell you in great detail how one of their masterpieces is achieved. Some of them started off as simple tourists eager to discover more about mosaics and then ended up staying for 10 years or longer, completely dedicated to establishing mosaic as a functional and living art form. For more details about the studio go to http://www.mosaicoravenna.it/laboratorio/gruppo-mosaicisti-ravenna/.
For the finest examples of Byzantine mosaics, don’t miss visiting the Basilica of San Vitale from the mid 6th century and no words can properly describe what waits for you inside! If you thought that mosaic art was nothing more than a few ‘tesserae’ (the tiny pieces of stone or glass that make a mosaic) thrown together to embellish a plain wall or floor, you couldn’t be more wrong and like in my case, every single one of your artistic misconceptions will be challenged forever!
Interior of San Vitale, Ravenna
Featured Image: A mosaic at the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna