Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Attempting to understand the term "mosaic" (part 2)


Consideration #2 ( Christian Arch. Company - 19th century)

I found some intriguing information in 19th century letters of the Christian Archaeological association in Greece regarding the restoration of the Dafni mosaics by Italian capo musaicista Francesco Novo.

He was called mUsaicista, not mosaicista. This means that mOsaic and mOsaicista were terms introduced later.

Still this fact alone doesn’t confirm the origin of the term "mosaic" being either muse or museum. Or what if it was music? Then things get even really complicated...

Before proceeding any further, let me share some of my findings from the Greek correspondence mentioned above.

capo musaicista αρχιμουσειωτής (both words mentioned in the text)

μουσειωτής (mouseiotis)

μουσειωτικόν κατάστημα (museiotikon katastima, mosaic shop)

μωσαϊκά, έπιδιορθωθέντων μωσαϊκών (mosaics, repaired mosaics)

The term “mouseiotis” is also mentioned in a website for the arts (

Παύλος ο μουσειωτής (ψηφιδογράφος). Φιλοτέχνησε θαυμαστή εικόνα του Χριστού στο ναό της Αγίας Σοφίας στην Κωνσταντινούπολη - Pavlos o mouseiotis....ecc

Therefore, mosaics were indeed called mosaics but mosaicista and mosaic shop were written and pronounced with U instead of an O.

I was thinking that I needed to get my hands on ancient texts on Sosus of Pergamon, the only mosaicist to have been recorded.

But where on earth could I get those books in Italy?

(to be continued)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

NEW design: mosaic is posh (put on your red shoes)

baseball cap


A quick post to share a new design that I uploaded on mosaicology shop. I hope you like it. It's also available on ladies t-shirts!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Attempting to understand the term "mosaic" (part 1)


Mosaic originally comes from "men-". 

Nothing to do with men.

This is Indo-European and it means "to think". 

Although it does makes sense as mosaic making involves a specific thought process.

But my challenge here is to understand where the word "mosaic" comes from and most importantly why this is the established term.

I have used a combination of sources to find answers to my questions. Primarily I have found refuge to etymological and normal dictionaries, Wikipedia and 19th century books in Greek.

When we think of “mosaic” evidently, there are two words that immediately pop up:

- museum
- muse

Consideration #1 (historical context)

While I was trying to evaluate the information that I had in front of me, there were a few questions. Stupid as they may have been, I’m glad I wrote them down in my notes because this kind of unfolded a revelation.

And the stupid questions that I “dared” ask myself were:

-          How come out of the official nine Muses, there wasn’t a muse for mosaic?

-          Why would mosaic derive from museum

For the 1st question the answer wasn’t difficult but – at least to me – it made me feel rather intrigued as if I was dealing with a mystery. It seemed so simple:

Mosaic art – as we know it, in its tessellated form – was established as an art form throughout the Hellenistic era in places like Pella, Olynthus, Delos, Eritrea etc. The nice muses, an Ancient Greek myth, were antecedent to the era we are investigating.

The 2nd question invoked more questions....

-          When did the word mosaic (or mosaico) start to emerge to connote what we know as mosaic (art) today and what data do we have for this?

-          How old is the term museum and what did it mean?

So I started investigating museum as a word, term and meaning.

According to Wikipedia, the first museum, the Musaeum or museion of Alexandria (2-3rd century BC) had nothing to do with art. Funny! It was an institution, home of music or poetry, a philosophical school and library, a place where texts were stored.

Roughly during the same period of the existence of the museum of Alexandria we observe  the evolution of mosaic art with the use of cut stones. According to the data provided on a variety of sites, mosaic evolved as an art form using cut stones is dated 3rd cent. BC.

So indisputably, mosaic art was established as an art form using tessellated mosaic tiles throughout Hellenistic times. 

Examples of this period that marked mosaic’s future profoundly are the mosaics in Delos, Greece that date from the last decades of 2nd century B.C. to the first decades and El-Djem in Tunisia.
While reading and taking notes for this post I was asking a new question.

-          Why would they give the word mosaico to an art form if the word (museion, musaeum) that gave birth to mosaic was an institution for philosophy and music?

I was beginning to make radical thoughts such as:

1. Mouseion or musaeum (the one in Alexandra) was a place where stories were collected and assembled as per Wikipedia's entry on Musaeum of Alexandria. This description alone – collection and assembly – resonates mosaic art.

2. The Mouseion of Alexandria was richly decorated. Now we have Hellenistic times and rich decoration. What's more posh than mosaic floors?

Are you following me?

Mosaic inspired by the functions of the museum.

Yeah, I know. This is rather unorthodox.

I would thus build a temporary theory along these lines:

Mosaic had to be either associated with the Muses or the Museum. In my humble opinion – not being a linguist or a scholar – it wouldn’t make sense to link the term “mosaic” to both.
We know that music derives from the Muses but we never associate music with Museum.

So why should we do it with mosaic?

(to be continued)