Mosaic, an enthralling art form, decoration of a surface with closely set tiny pieces of varying colored stones, mineral, glass, tile or shell. Mosaics can either be made of roughly square pieces of glass, tile or stones which are known as tesserae, or pebble mosaics which are made of a little rounded piece of stone. An inlay, a similar form of art where the pieces are laid in the surface which is hollowed out but, the pieces are attached to a surface with adhesive in mosaic. Technical intuition plays a stupendous role in the formation and appreciation of mosaic which turned out to be a huge breakthrough in the 3rd millennium BC in the field of art.

The name ‘Mosaic’ has a humorous story. Mosaic is derived from the word mosaico of Italian which comes from Latin mosaicus which was ultimately derived from the Greek word mouseios denoting belonging to Muses, hence artistic. Tessera and opus are other common terms used in this art which denote the single piece of the material and the work of cutting and arranging the tesserae respectively. The art is known to have taken birth in Mesopotamia and spread very fast to Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Christian basilicas were decorated with ceiling and wall mosaics from the 4th century and bloomed in the Byzantine Empire from 6th to the 15th centuries, in the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in the 12th century and in the Republic of Venice and Rus in Ukraine but the art was knocked out of fashion during Renaissance. Greatest Islamic buildings like the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and Umayyad mosque also were adorned with mosaic.


The techniques employed in the creation of mosaic involves the direct and indirect method. Direct method is used for small projects which mainly involve three-dimensional surfaces like vases. It is done by directly gluing the tessarae onto the required surface. The indirect method is used for large projects involving repetitive elements. Tessarae are applied face-down onto a backing paper in the studio and then cementing it on the site with the paper facing outwards. Mosaic murals, benches and tabletops are made by this method. The creation of mosaic is so significant that the mathematical field ‘tassellation’ developed. It gives the best way to arrange the shapes on the surface.

Mosaic has evolved to become a modern craft where the art isn’t confined to professionals but also done by street artists with simple materials like art glass, mirrors, beads, doll parts, pearls and photographs. Trancadis or pique assiette is a form that is one’s imagination to create a new surface with pieces of broken pottery, china, glass, buttons, figurines, or jewelry, cemented on any base. In recent times, mosaic is created digitally with CAD which finds the best match of tiles to the source image. Robots are also programmed to pick and place tiles based on the command file from the design software and is seen to be ten times faster with the same accuracy. Whatever might be the advancement, exquisite historic mosaic arts found in various parts of the world spellbinds art lovers till date.


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