With its extraordinary decorative and expressive potential, art mosaic is one of highest expressions of beauty. From the newly-built majestic Presidential Palace and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi to Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai, the historical Tuscan company Fantini Mosaici | Marmi is writing a new chapter in the history of mosaic art and architecture, with unique and breathtaking creations.
What is art mosaic?
The etymology of the term art mosaic is uncertain. It probably comes from the Greek musaikòn, which literally means “work of the Muses”, referring to the tradition of decorating the caverns and fountains that embellished Roman gardens and that were dedicated to the muses protectors of the arts.
Mosaic is a fascinating decorative technique that consists in creating geometric patterns or representations on architectural surfaces by using roughly squared fragments called tesserae (plural for tessera). Tesserae can be made of different materials, such as stone, marble, terracotta, glazed ceramic or coloured glass paste. They are hand-cut, processed, juxtaposed and fixed on a layer of plaster, mastic or concrete.
This charming thousand-year-old art is mostly suitable for large flat surfaces such as:
Let’s retrace the suggestive history of mosaic art together, from its origins up to the present day.
The origins of mosaic
In its embryonic stage, mosaic was one of the first art forms to be documented by the first civilizations in history. In fact, the very first examples of mosaic decorations were found in Mesopotamia and date back to the 4th millennium BC. They were made of small cuneiform pieces of terracotta inserted into fresh mortar. In the Minoan-Mycenaean region, during the 2nd millennium BC, the use of carpets began to gradually give way to cobblestone floors, which were waterproof and more wear-resistant.
The history of mosaic
Between the 17th and the 11th century BC, mosaic art gained ground in Ancient Greece, especially in Crete. The first mosaics made of river cobbles or glazed clay served as cladding for rammed earth walls and floors to preserve them from humidity and make the surfaces smoother, more homogeneous and less prone to get dirty. Mosaics were born for practical reasons, rather than for aesthetic purposes. With the passing of time, mosaics were more and more frequently used also for decorative purposes, to embellish both the interiors and exteriors of houses.
In the classical age, decorations with black and white cobblestones were replaced by figurative mosaics. A few stunning examples can still be seen in the Greek regions of Euboea and Macedonia. During the 4th century BC, mosaic art evolved by experiencing a major technical development and mosaics were thus embellished with more detailed geometric patterns and ornamental motifs. Cobblestone mosaics gave way to an intermediate decoration technique that consisted in using marble wedges, colourful stones, onyx or red terracotta of different shapes and sizes.
Roughly squared stone or glass tesserae were first used in the 3rd century BC. During the Hellenistic period, mosaic art reached levels of excellence with extraordinary mosaics that looked like paintings.
In Ancient Rome, the tesserae mosaic was introduced in the late 3rd century BC for decorating both public and private buildings. In fact, the most complete representation on how to prepare the materials for tesserae mosaics dates back to Roman times. Emperor Nero introduced the use of gold tesserae. Mosaic decoration became widely popular during the Roman Empire and mosaic schools were founded, with specific decorative and chromatic repertoires.
Mosaic in Paleochristian art
Mosaic art was greatly appreciated within Paleochristian art. The technique remained about the same, while the Roman-Pagan figurative repertoire was replaced by Christian symbols and figurative series depicting scenes from the Bible. The walls of the main basilicas were covered with remarkably fine and beautiful mosaic works of art.
The evolution of mosaic art went on during the Byzantine Empire. Some of the most famous Byzantine mosaics are located in the Italian city of Ravenna.
In the Middle Ages, floor mosaics, which were usually made of reused materials found on site, were more common than wall mosaics. For financial reasons, in fact, frescos were generally preferred for the walls.
Mosaic in the Renaissance
During the Renaissance, the main mosaic manufacturing centres were Rome and Venice, where famous painters such as Tiziano Vecellio, Lorenzo Lotto, Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese provided outlines on cardboard that were used to make mosaics.
The 19th century was a period of fruitful recovery for mosaic art, with Gothic Revival and especially with Art Deco and Art Nouveau that allowed mosaic to be considered no longer a secondary art form.
Among the most significant tessellated works of art, we must mention the creations by famous Catalan modernist architect Antoni Gaudì, who used the decorating technique called trencadìs, which consists in juxtaposing ceramic and glass fragments. The surreal Casa Batllò and the suggestive mosaics at Park Güell in Barcelona, Spain, that you should see at least once in your lifetime, are made from waste materials.
Art mosaic: marble, glass, gold, cobblestone
The long tradition of the Italian corporation Fantini Mosaici | Marmi in mosaic art has given life to a wide variety of artistic mosaics with unique designs and artisanal manufacturing. Let’s go into detail and see the different types of mosaic that the Fantini Mosaici | Marmi group has to offer.
Marble mosaics consist of different-sized tesserae, which are strictly hand-cut. They are characterised by evocative colour and shade combinations, and are suitable for interior and exterior surfaces, for both floors and walls.
The colour range for glass mosaics is almost limitless. There is currently a great demand for swimming pools and luxury mansion cladding.
Gold mosaic, a symbol of wealth and lavishness, is used to enhance and embellish both indoor and outdoor details. The 76 domes of the new Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, in the Emirates, were decorated by Fantini Mosaici | Marmi with no less than 18,000 square metres of gold and glass mosaic.
Venetian mosaic and Palladian floors
Venetian mosaic is an ancient technique that consists of irregularly cut marble fragments. Fantini Mosaici | Marmi has manufactured majestic examples of Venetian mosaic outside a few high-end apartment buildings in Milan.
The cobblestone mosaic technique is based on the use of both natural stones, collected from riverbeds in Northern Italy, and coloured stones from marble cutting, such as the ones used by Fantini Mosaici | Marmi to pave the entrance hall of the luxurious Palazzo Versace Hotel and Residence in Dubai.
Fantini Mosaici | Marmi: beauty and tradition for mosaic art
During the 20th century, mosaic art was mainly used in the field of architectural decoration. That’s when Fantini Mosaici | Marmi, a historical company established in 1900, came on the scene.
Fantini Mosaici | Marmi has embellished the world’s most majestic and luxurious public and private buildings with unique and astonishingly beautiful creations for four generations. A few examples are Palazzo Versace Hotel in Dubai, the Villa Casa Casuarina, the Versace family’s mansion in Miami Beach, and the wonders of the Arab-Islamic contemporary world, such as Sheikh Sultan Bin Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
The Fantini Mosaici | Marmi group, a solid international company with branches in Milan, Miami and Newport Beach, in the US, and in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is bringing the thousand-year-old mosaic art all over the world thanks to its mastery, technique and expertise, by giving life to exclusive creations, one tessera at a time.
The company Fantini Mosaici | Marmi, starting from a thousand-year-old tradition rooted in one of the most ancient and prestigious decorating techniques, as we said before, has evolved and modernised itself in order to keep up with technological innovation, by combining its know-how regarding materials and techniques with the use of state-of-the-art machinery, cutting-edge technologies and sophisticated systems for project implementation.