14 December 2010

Up close and personal with the Lod Mosaic

In the summer of '09, the great Sara Baldwin sent me a link to a story about a Roman mosaic that had been discovered and preserved in Lod, Israel. The image above is the whole mosaic. It's a hi-res, so click it if you want a better view.

The mosaic was enormous, nearly 2,000 square feet and it was in a nearly pristine state. It had been discovered in 1996 and then buried again until 2004. By 2004, the Israeli Antiquities Authority had a plan and in that same year, they put that plan into action.

I have a thing for Roman art and mosaics, I've written about that on this blog a lot. So does Sara and that shared love of ancient mosaics is what drew the two of us together in the first place. I wrote about the Lod mosaic in June, 2009.

I added it to a very long list of things I wanted to see but figured I never would some time after I wrote that post.

At some point this past fall, another great woman and lover of all things Roman, JoAnn Locktov told me that the Lod Mosaic was coming to the US on a tour while the Israeli Antiquities Authority built the museum that will house it eventually. The first stop on that tour is the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

The exhibit opened at the end of September and it runs through April 3, 2011. So in what has to be one of the coolest coincidences ever, I went to see the Lod Mosaic on Saturday afternoon.

No matter how many photos of it I'd seen nothing prepared me for it fully. It's significantly larger than I thought it would be and the colors are shockingly bright.

Here are some detail shots I took on Saturday.

Amazing stuff.

The Roman love of tile and mosaic are why were have tile bathrooms and kitchens today by the way. That civilization, more than any other ancient civilization, touches our daily lives almost continuously. Whether the custom in question is birthday cake or wedding rings or Christmas presents or tile bathrooms, the Romans played a role in all of that stuff.

More than any of that though, it's the imagery in Roman mosaics that speaks to me most profoundly.

One of the many things I love about Sara Baldwin and her company, New Ravenna, is their way of taking a page from the ancient Romans and interpreting that style for the here and now. I can't buy a Roman mosaic, no one can really. That's a good thing, surviving artifacts are a resource that belong to everybody. I can however, have a bathroom floor made that will remind me of the Roman floors I've seen and walked on. Here are some samples of New Ravenna's classically-inspired mosaic patterns.

Whether it's from Lod or from Exmore, VA; it's all pretty amazing stuff. If you'll be in New York between now and April, please spend a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum.


  1. Wonderful. Few things are as beautiful as an intricate tile mosaic, especially one as amazingly preserved as that ... hey, Paul, ever been to Paestum? Thanks for sharing.

  2. I have never been to Paestum, have you? I never made it that far south when I was in that part of the world. I kicked around Pompeii and Herculaneum and then went to Oplontis, Boscoreale and Stabia but we ran out of time and never made it farther south than Salerno. Next time...

  3. I love the mosaic! I feel sorry for the poor deer though! All the pics depict there inevitable demise by the king of the jungle! LOL

    I never been to the Met but one day! Cool Post!

  4. Thanks! The Met is a cultural treasure trove. In a lot of ways even more so than the Smithsonian. Go sometime, you won't regret it.

  5. Wow, what an amazing piece of history and art. I wonder how many people worked on the Lod mosaic and how long it took to complete...

    It's so great that you were able to see it in person. You never know what opportunities will present themselves :-)

    Sara's mosaics are also stunning.

  6. Thanks Kelly, New York is calling you...

  7. Wow, that’s quite a blog, my man. The original mosaic is absolutely astounding, as are the ones done by Sara. Obviously, none of us could afford the original, but, for my own self, I have always felt that antiques, no matter who made them, are very overrated, excepting only musical instruments, because I understand those with an ear for it can discern a decided difference. But these mosaics… wow.

  8. Yes, but is it coming to the Los Angeles area? Or even San Francisco? Wait, I know. Ask Sara to send me a ticket to NY right away. I'm free that day!

  9. Joseph: Thanks for your comment. Antiques don't really do anything for me either. Unless they're Roman that is.

    Aloexandra: Yes, it will be in San Francisco in May. Be there!

  10. Oh-so informative post - such exquisite detail and beauty. I've been an admirer of Sara Baldwin's work for quite a while and was fortunate enough to have installed her "bamboo" mosaic line in a client's bath project - fabulous and timeless. Thanks Paul!

  11. Sara's an amazing woman. I'm fortunate to have spent enough time around her to know that first-hand.

  12. Thank you for this extraordinary post of an extraordinary mosaic, Paul. I am fortunate to have my life steeped in mosaics,(I figure my passion dates from about 400 years ago). Working with Sara and her collections, I am so struck by the original purpose of mosaics-their durability, personalization and beauty. These elements have not changed at all in 2,000 years. How many things can claim that legacy?

  13. Great post and awesome pictures of an amazing wonder. Thanks.

  14. Good Gosh, Paul, I love it when it's so obvious how our lives are all so interconnected--I can't wait to see this mosaic myself. Thanks so much for mentioning us! And Andie, I was so impressed with your website. You don't know how it makes my day to see our product INSTALLED. We rarely get to see the finished rooms.

  15. Amazing!!! Great post!!! Thanks! ;-)Joe

  16. JoAnn, thanks for cluing me into the fact that it was in new York in the fist place. That visit to the Met was all your doing.

    Bill: It's coming to San Francisco after it finishes up in New York. Go!

    Sara: Isn't is wild how these connections just keep weaving together?

    Joe: Hello Brazil and thanks for the comment!

  17. Wow, that is an amazing piece of work!

    Birthday cake comes from the Romans? Do tell!

  18. Actually, the whole idea of a birthday celebration is Roman.


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