Books Magazine


By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Last Saturday's blog was way too long. Apologies. This one will be more concise - and grounded!
I am slightly more excited about floor as a topic than I was about wallpaper a while back, curtains at Christmas time or masonry a couple of years ago.
As the renovations have progressed through the house above the strand, I've been ripping out carpets and sanding down floorboards. Sometimes I've encountered chipboard beneath underlay, so that's had to go as well, to be replaced by proper tongue and groove pine boards. I like the feel of natural wood underfoot. A couple of laminate floors have been dispatched to the dumper for the same reason; slow progress but I'm getting there.
However, I don't want to dwell on renovations. We're off to Rhodes in a few weeks time; (yes, another Greek holiday, where else? to extend the summer.) The island is renowned, among other things, for its tradition of beautiful mosaic floors.
Decorative mosaic floors have been a feature of Greek temples, civic buildings and luxurious private dwellings since the 5th century BC, sometimes ornamental (as above) and sometimes depicting floral or mythical themes (as below). We know this both from literature, historical records and surviving examples. The mosaics were originally composed of naturally coloured pebbles (called tesserae) but over time the art form evolved to include painted and glazed tesserae and stained glass pieces.
For centuries, because of its geographical position in the south-east Aegean, Rhodes was one of the most important trading centres in the Mediterranean, at a maritime crossroads between southern Europe, Asia minor and north Africa. From the 4th century BC, the island had one of the biggest merchant navies in the region and was a major exporter of wine, grain and olive-oil. In its five-hundred year golden age, Rhodian power and prosperity made its chief city states cultural centres as well as seats of commercial and political power.
In the 4th century BC, mainland Macedonia, where the art of mosaic-making had first flourished, was in decline and the artists and their workshops relocated eastwards to the Dodecanese islands of Kos and Rhodes, where wealthy patrons were happy to pay for their private houses to be embellished with beautiful and durable mosaic floors - many of which have since been uncovered, excavated, preserved and renovated and can be viewed at archaeological sites in Rhodes town and around the island.
That is an exciting enough legacy, as it provides an insight into both the evolution of the pebble mosaic as an art form and the chief artistic concerns of the era; but beyond that, the practice established a tradition of pebble mosaic flooring that has continued down through two millennia and still flourishes underfoot in Rhodes today - albeit at a slightly more prosaic level - as decorative floor-work in many cafes, doorways and courtyards. I'm looking forward to seeing both ancient and contemporary examples of mosaic floors. while on holiday.
All of the above led obliquely to the composition of today's little poem...
Mosaic Floors
Nothing cast aside, nor history wasted,
marvel at the past recycled underfoot.
Shards of old forts and temples,
households and utensils
shorn by time of their jags and snags,
smoothed, sampled, sorted,
have been artfully reassembled
in tessellated symmetry;
tiny fragments of antiquity
these pebbles,
only with the blood, sweat, tribulation
washed away.
Creatively reset and grouted fresh,
mosaic floors
serve testament to former glories,
sure - but more than that:
they demonstrate a continuity
in celebrate of mankind's longevity
upon these dusty shores.
Thus the classical commingles happily
with the prosaic;
the past survives, informs the present
in the pattern of our lives.
Thanks for reading. Tread thoughtfully, Steve ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog