Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mosaic of theatrical masks


This great mosaic is at display at the Musei Capitolini in Rome. It was found on the site of the baths constructed by Trajan Decius (AD 249-251). Other sources, like wikipedia, claim the mosaic to be found in Hadrian's villa at Tivoli.

Despite the fact that I found it hard to make any proper pictures in the lightbulb environment of the museum, it belongs at this blog. The first one is taken by Anthony Moose (Wikimedia Commons), the second one by me. The mosaic represents two masks leaning on a socle projecting out from two walls that meet an angle, seen in perspective. Two flutes lean on one wall. The female mask depicts a woman with large eyes and wide-open mouth. A ribbon knotted into a bow at the center of her brow, appears in her curly hair with long ringlets. The physiognomic features of the man are exaggerated and ridiculed. On his head ivy and berries, associated with the cult of Dionysus, which was linked to the birth of the Greek theater. The masks belonged to two 'types' form New Comedy, which developed in the Hellenistic period: the young woman, of sad for her misfortunes and the slave, fearful and mocking. The work, constructed with polychromatic marble tesserae, probably belonged to an emblema pavement in an imperial building on the Aventine. It is dated second century AD, maybe Hadrianic. I really like this!

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