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Mosaic

Mosaics are among the most enduring of Roman decorative arts, and are found on the surfaces of floors and other architectural features such as walls, vaulted ceilings, and columns. The most common form is the tessellated mosaic, formed from uniform pieces (tesserae) of materials such as stone and glass. Mosaics were usually crafted on site, but sometimes assembled and shipped as ready-made panels. A mosaic workshop was led by the master artist (pictor) who worked with two grades of assistants.
 
Figurative mosaics share many themes with painting, and in some cases portray subject matter in almost identical compositions. Although geometric patterns and mythological scenes occur throughout the Empire, regional preferences also find expression. In North Africa, a particularly rich source of mosaics, homeowners often chose scenes of life on their estates, hunting, agriculture, and local wildlife. Plentiful and major examples of Roman mosaics come also from present-day Turkey, Italy, southern France, Spain, and Portugal. More than 300 Antioch mosaics from the 3rd century are known.
 
Opus sectile is a related technique in which flat stone, usually coloured marble, is cut precisely into shapes from which geometric or figurative patterns are formed. This more difficult technique was highly prized, and became especially popular for luxury surfaces in the 4th century, an abundant example of which is the Basilica of Junius Bassus.
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