Roman, the Levant, late Imperial Period, ca. 3rd to 5th century CE. A veritable marvel of balance and symmetry, this stone mosaic depicts an elegant amphora in a lovely color palette of wine red, taupe, sienna, jet black, dove grey, and milky white – all against a creamy beige ground with a russet and slate grey border. Size: mosaic measures ~ 25.125″ W x 25.125″ H (63.8 cm x 63.8 cm); 26.625″ W x 26.625″ H (67.6 cm x 67.6 cm) with matrix and metal frame
Mosaics (opus tesellatum) are some of our most enduring images from the Roman world, exciting not only for their aesthetic beauty, but also because they reveal what Romans chose to depict and see every day decorating their private and public spaces. Amphorae were used to store and transport wine, olive oil, and other foodstuffs or precious liquids. They were created in two basic forms – the belly amphora with continuous curves from neck to foot and the neck amphora with a shoulder that joins the neck at a sharp angle, as we see depicted in this example.
In the Roman province of Syria, which encompassed most of the ancient Near East/Levant, mosaics developed as a popular art form relatively late, with most finds coming from the 3rd century CE or later. Syria was one of Rome’s wealthiest provinces, but it was also far removed from Rome itself and Roman culture was overlaid on enduring cultural traditions from Hellenistic Greece and the great civilizations that came before it. Antioch-on-the-Orontes (modern day Antakya, Turkey), was the capital of northern Roman Syria, and its excavations in the 1930s revealed more than three hundred mosaic pavements – of which many embellished public baths. Popular mosaic themes from this region were often mythological or religious scenes, depicting gods and goddesses; however, sometimes mosaics were created to fit the theme of a building or room. This example may have been intended for the triclinium – an ancient dining room – or the kitchen known as a culina.