History & Mythology

The Glory of Byzantine Mosaic Art

If you are looking for a new piece of art and you want something that is equal parts eye-catching and awe-inspiring, along with a piece that will generate conversation; then you definitely want to look into inquiring a piece of Byzantine or Byzantine-inspired Mosaics. The wondrous thing about mosaic artwork is the lack of limitations for displaying your art. You are not limited to the highly popular wall hangings or even display pieces tucked on shelves but instead think to install a piece of Byzantine mosaic art into your backyard pool, your existing backsplash in the kitchen or even within the tiles of your flooring.

Byzantine Mosaic art uses contrasting colors, textures and miniature images found within the overall image to create pieces of art that inspire conversation and appreciation. Other forms of mosaic artwork use similar themes as well but there is something about the Byzantine mosaic art that makes people take a second glance. Is it the images depicted? Is it the way that the colors suit but contrast against each other? Is it the fact that this type of artwork was once considered taboo and banned (more on that below)? The answer is yours to decide and define but the one thing that people can agree on is that Byzantine Mosaics are rare and recognizable from the first glance. 

Before committing to Byzantine Mosaic artwork, it should be understood just what mosaic pieces are, where did the Byzantine Mosaic period originate and the type of pieces that can be found and also, where you can display such pieces in subtle or eye-catching ways. If you are not sure if you want to use Byzantine Mosaic artwork in your home, then there are other types that can be used in the same way to inspire and showcase part of your personality. 

What is Mosaic Art?

 

Image from Wikipedia

 

What exactly constitutes mosaic artwork? Does it refer to the images presented or the colors used? Not quite – mosaic artwork is any type of image that has been created using small roundish or square pieces of a hard material joined together to display a pattern, image or portrait. These hard material pieces could come from pebbles or stones, concrete, glass or a combination of all of them to create works of art. 

Want to see an example of a pattern created using mosaic based art? Check out how images are transformed using small hard materials:

 

Image from Pinterest

 

Image from Pinterest

These hard pieces might be colored using paint to contrast and blend the hard pieces together into the image presented but sometimes an artist might use colored backing behind clear glass for a surreal take on a generic image. 

Mosaic art is subjective and can be used to transform an ordinary image into something magical. Accomplished mosaic artists can also use pictures from a gathering to create one big family portrait or a loved one that has passed; such as the following examples:

 

 

What is Byzantine Mosaic Art?

 

Image from Wikipedia

 

To truly appreciate Byzantine Mosaic art, a bit of background on what it truly stands for is important. During the Byzantine Empire (which existed in Eastern Roman) in medieval times, from the 6th to the 15th century, mosaics were one of the most popular forms of artwork to be displayed in the or in places of religious worship. The ruler of the Byzantine Empire, Justinian along with his wife, commissioned many pieces to be used as decoration and reminders of religious stories in many of the main churches of the time

 

Image from Wikipedia

Artists from all over Europe came to East Roman to study, learn and grow under the watchful eye of established mosaic artists. 

This form of artwork was used to depict images of religious figures, images, stories and more to be displayed out in the open in places where worshippers gathered. It is believed that mosaics were used as the primary source of artwork because it could be installed directly into the floor, walls or windows of the church. It didn’t have to be hung on a wall, it could be part of a wall.

 

Image from Wilderutopia

Towards the end of the 8th century, it was legislated that any religious images were considered heretic (along with any other icons that may be immortalized in the stone pieces) which lead way to the destruction of many mosaic pieces. Luckily, some were preserved in pieces or in entirety to be admired by people of all religious fractions today. 

After a while, the ban was lifted on using icons as art which meant that mosaic artwork, as it was known for its bursts of color, haunting surreal images, and textured designs, was one the rise again in popularity. Local and international artists began to move beyond religious imagery and into other commonplace scenes as well to further expand their creative processes. This practice for using small hard materials as the basis of the image continued until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453.

 

Image from Mozaico Blog

Mosaic art that was influenced by the Byzantine Empire had such an influence that its textures, tone, and color is still maintained by artists globally; from Greece to Serbia to Russia and other Eastern Orthodox countries in modern times. Examples can be found in places of worship all over the world, from Asia to Russia. 

Why Byzantine Mosaics?

Image from Wikipedia

 

Some people may be wondering why Byzantine Mosaics and the answer is undefined. It might not be the images you are looking for from that period but the textures and the way details were brought to the surface using only a contrasting color. It could be the way that Byzantine Mosaics are both simplistic and complex all at the same time that intrigues you or perhaps it’s the way that a simple image contains numerous miniature images to create a bigger overall picture. 

If you are a religious person, then you might enjoy having your faith and beliefs displayed in a way that doesn’t come wall hangings or figurines but instead a piece of artwork that you walk by every single day. It could be an image of your place of worship or a religious figure you feel an infinity with and inspires you to hold onto your faith.

 

Image from Pinterest

Ways to Display your Byzantine Mosaic Art

Image from Pinterest

 

Whether you commissioned a piece of mosaic art in the same style as the pieces that came out of the Byzantine period or you have purchased a replica piece of art; you now need to know how to display it in your home. Ultimately the decision is up to you how you display your artwork but there are multiple ways mosaics can be displayed in the home. For example:

  • If your piece is matted and framed, you can hang it on the wall in place of a painting. Just ensure that you placed the brackets, screws and other supports directly into stuff as mosaic artwork can be heavier than paintings due to the materials used. 
  • If you have smaller tiles or tiles in a range of sizes, pick up some plate displayers and place your pieces in a semi-circle on a table that is within the main focus of the room to bring attention to the pops of color. 
  • Entrust the services of a professional and get your mosaic image installed directly into the walls of your shower or the tiles of your bathroom floor. Someone who has experience with mosaic installation will be able to do this in such a manner that it is blended into the rest of the floor, with no raised edges or gaps.
    • You can also get your mosaic image installed into the tiles of your shower for a surprising pop of color that brings your décor together. Just remember that these options are definitely on the more expensive side of the scale and you will absolutely want an expert for the installation process.
  • Like the above suggestion, you can also get mosaic artwork installed in the existing tiles of your backyard pool, either on the walls of the pool or throughout the floor. Watch the water shimmer and move over the images for a haunting but inspiring look. 
  • You can install mosaic artwork in other areas of your backyard as well, from the patio stones that lead to your favorite relaxation spot to the rim that surrounds your fire pit. If it is you personally who is commissioning mosaic art pieces, then you definitely want to ensure that it is in a place where you can sit and enjoy it during your daily routine.
  • You can get mosaic imagery installed in the tiles of your kitchen floor or bring the room together by using your selected images in the backsplash behind the stove/sink of the room. 

The beauty of mosaic artwork is that you are not limited to just hanging your pieces on the wall but instead can incorporate pieces of all sizes into various rooms of your home. You are not limited to the inside of the home or the outside but instead can use pieces that resembled each other to bring your interior decorating from the inside to the outdoors. 

There is something magical when you see artwork displayed in such a way, it is almost in competition with Mother Nature. Watch the lush greenery of your backyard contrast against the starkness of your mosaic images and definitely take time to admire the way that the changing light patterns highlight and shadow the colors in turn.

Conclusion

Artwork is subjective and you should never pick out a piece based on the fact that is will match your décor or meet the expectations of your friends. Like the example found here, you should choose pieces that other people may find overwhelming but you feel a personal connection with. 

Image from Pinterest

Personalized artwork or pieces that have been picked out over much debate should be an extension of your personality. You want pieces surrounding you that inspire emotion, whether those emotions are positive, negative, thought-provoking or therapeutic. 

Choose pieces wisely and slowly to surround yourself with beautiful (in your eyes) artwork. Don’t rush a decision when it comes to your artwork and if you can’t find what you are looking for through typical means (store or online); then consider visiting your local artist or art gallery to inquire about customized mosaic artwork. The beauty of customized mosaic artwork is that not only do you boost the local economy and support art in your community, you are also the designer of the mosaic piece. Bring styles of Byzantine mosaic artwork that you feel a connection to and watch your chosen artist bring your vision to life.

Another idea to spice up the walls of your home, both inside and out, is to bring your children or nephews/nieces into the mix by picking up a do-it-yourself mosaic kit and letting them help design your unique piece.

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Candace Osmond

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