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Lot 0071A
Roman, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 4th century CE. So skillfully executed, this mosaic depicts a Roman priestess draped in long vestments and a veil, standing in profile and holding an offering out toward the altar from which flames are emerging. On the opposite side are two men dressed in togas who appear to be engaged in a thought-provoking discussion. All is set before a white tesserae background creating a sense of atmospheric perspective and 'framed' by a decorative border adorned by a sinous leafy grapevine. The artist of piece was quite skilled, for the figures and their vestments display subtle color gradations, thus modeling the forms in three dimensions and creating shading. One can also detect an attempt at shadows on the groundline. In addition, the artist's interest in capturing naturalism in the anatomy and even human interaction is impressive. Size: 27.5" W x 18.625" H (69.8 cm x 47.3 cm)

Sophisticated mosaicists used a wide range of colors to shade the figures and suggest volumes, and the creator of this piece is no exception. Notice how the priestess' veil is comprised of tiny tesserae in wine, rose, and pink hues of various shades to delineate every fold of the fabric, and her robes are rendered in multiple shades of blue. Similarly, the clothing of the men is presented in many shades of green, blue, gold, beige, and wine so as to trace the contours their bodies. What's more the skin tones of all the figures are subtly graduated so as to create the appearance of flesh. Furthermore, a closer look at the gesturing arms of the men reveals wonderful foreshortening. The altar is similarly presented in three dimensions. Indeed, the best mosaicists rivaled the illusory feats of painters. By assembling tiny tesserae (Latin for dice or cube) – artists could adjust the size and shape and produce measured gradations of color to rival true paintings.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-private collection of Dr. Sid Port, UCLA Professor of Physics

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#132629

Condition

Losses to peripheries and interior sections as shown. Areas of the border linear motif have been painted to create a more complete composition. Set into modern plaster matrix.

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Roman Mosaic - Priestess Making Offering

Estimate $15,000 - $20,000May 10, 2018
Louisville, CO, USA