ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM, Alexander Mosaic

Audio File length: 2.36
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

Unfortunately, not a single painting remains from the great painters of antiquity. We must content ourselves with their names, such as Zeuxis or Parrhasius, and descriptions of their works and the techniques they used. One of these techniques consisted of placing many small tiles of equal size on a concrete bed to form a mosaic that was similar to a rug in the center of the floor.

Some examples of this type of "stone painting" can be seen in Pompeii, especially in the House of the Faun, which has given us many panels and a large work, the famous mosaic that depicts the Victory of Alexander the Great in the Battle of Issus.

One thing that is certain is that this mosaic was made in the first century BC; this is the only representation of the battle and it's more than five meters wide and consists of about four million limestone tiles. Although it is a Roman copy, and was made to be placed on a floor, this mosaic helps you understand what a great Greek mural painting probably looked like.

The dramatic battle culminates in the panicked expression of the Persian King Darius, with wide-open, incredulous eyes. Alexander, depicted in profile, attacks him with overwhelming impetus while his entire army strays about. The figures' state of mind can be seen through a series of ingenious depictions: Dario's desire to escape is indicated by the motion of the spears, which however scatter, while his charioteer is already desperate and wildly whips the horses to escape.

Also from the House of the Faun, you can see the famous mosaic that depicts a cat intent on hunting a partridge. Look at how realistic the portrait of the lurking animal is, with his eyes glistening on the prey: the small size and finesse of the tiles placed in rows lets you admire the cat's attitude with incredible precision, and you can see incredible details such as the stripes of the cat's fur and even the hairs standing up on his back and tail.

 

FUN FACT: the Vesuvius eruption lasted 25 hours, during which the volcano erupted about a billion cubic meters of lava.

And with this we have finished our tour of the National Archaeological Museum. MyWoWo thanks you for staying with us, and will see you at the next Wonder of the World!

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