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Ancient Roman tesserae mosaic decorated with a woman, 1st-2nd Century AD

Conservation:  Good condition
Material:  Tesserae
Dimensions:  64 x 42,5 cm; 30 kg
Provenance:  Ex Connel Burgess Collection, Coulsdon, UK, until 1977; Ex Immo Meier, Frankfurt, 1983; Ex Hosea Franke, Berlin, 1991; Ex Giles Kirk, London, 2004; Acquired by Calvin Schaap in 2015, Amsterdam, The Netherlands


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Mosaics (opus tesellatum), composed of tesserae or small glazed pottery stones and their vitreous colour, served to give greater impact to the halls and main areas of the house in Ancient Rome. They reveal daily life, social interactions and even aspects such as clothing, personal ornamentation and the interior of buildings in a way that other styles of Roman art often do not.

Roman mosaics feature numerous depictions of women. Most are of mythological inspiration – goddesses, heroines and other protagonists of countless legends – but there are also documented depictions of flesh-and-blood women, probably dominae, their daughters, maids and servants. One of the roles of women depicted in the mosaics are those of wife, mother and daughter, reflecting fidelity, concern for children and unquestioning obedience to parents – positive examples at the time.

In many of these representations, regardless of their role, the female figure is depicted as the cause of evil and war, following a tradition which, referred to by the poet Hesiod in the 7th century BC, goes back to the myth of Pandora.

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