My favourite object… #4

The fourth item in ‘Our Favourite object…‘ series is, like Ruth and Becky’s favourites, to be found in the Drawing Room. Len, a volunteer room guide, tells us a bit more, and encourages us to look more closely at, the circular Italian table…

For a number of years this table was hidden behind the door in the billiard room where most visitors simply walked past it. It is now in a prominent position in the drawing room where a visitor’s attention can be drawn to it.

There are five pictures of Roman Ruins set with a malachite border.

a Table_top

Roman Forum

Arch of Constantine

Colosseum

Temple of Vesta

Pantheon

The guide book says they are pietra dure which is not quite true although they are tesselations or micro-mosaics.

With the naked eye a slight granularity can be seen in the pictures, particularly in the skies. A hand lens showed that the pictures were composed of particles which were thought to be small coloured glass beads (ballotini). However enlarged photographs reveal the pictures are composed of glass tesserae. These are not spherical but oblong. They are created by softening glass so that it can be pulled out into a long thread which is flattened on a surface. The glass is allowed to cool and then cracked or cut into lots of small pieces. Glasses of different colours are used. Byzantine artists used to sandwich gold leaf between two tesserae when creating icons. The tiny fragments are then arranged to form the picture. The craftsman here is working to a tiny scale and yet most pieces are perfectly aligned. Once the whole mosaic is formed it is reheated to a temperature sufficient to allow the tesserae to fuse to each other so the resulting mosaic is really a single piece of glass and quite stable.

Below are the individual mosaics. I thank fellow volunteer Chris Purvis for the photographs.

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Arch of Constantine

Arch of Constantine

Colosseum

Colosseum

Temple of Vesta

Temple of Vesta

f Pantheon_900

Len Mullenger, Room Guide

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2 thoughts on “My favourite object… #4

  1. Simply wonderful, I can imagine it would be easy to miss some things like this on a visit, so even more important to be able to see them here – and what excellent photos.

    • Very true. It is often the things we walk past that hold such interesting information! I have certainly took more time to look when in the Drawing Room. I am very grateful to one of our volunteers – Chris Purvis – for taking such great photos!

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