This photograph shows a detail from one of the most celebrated ancient mosaics to have survived into the modern era. The mosaic depicts Alexander the Great’s defeat of the Persian king Darius; the detail here illustrates Alexander himself.
In its entirety, the mosaic measures 5.82 x 3.13m (19ft x 10ft 3in), and is made of around a million tesserae (small mosaic tiles). It was discovered in the largest house in Pompeii, the House of the Faun, in a room overlooking the central peristyle garden of the house. It is thought that this house was built shortly after the Roman conquest of Pompeii, and is likely to have been the residence of one of Pompeii’s new, Roman, ruling class.
The mosaic highlights the wealth and power of the occupier of the house, since such grand and elaborate mosaics are extremely rare, both in Pompeii and in the wider Roman world.
~ Battle of Alexander and Darius.
Mosaic from Pompeii (House of the Faun, VI 12, 2, exedra).
Date: 125—120 B.C.
Provenance: Naples, National Archaeological Museum
(Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli)
This is the one and only Alexander mosaic from The House of the Faun in Pompeii, now on display at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. What a fantastic polychrome mosaic, with very innovative artistic ventures concerning the dying man reflected in his shield, and the foreshortening of the horse’s bum. It was really quite stunning to see in person, taking my breath away with its incredible detail.
The Calendar Woman for 10th November is Helena of Egypt (around 350 BC)
Helena was an artist in Ancient Egypt and one of
the few women named during the Greek era. Nothing is known of Helena’s life
other than the fact that she learned her craft from her father Timon, who was
also an artist. She is known to historians because the Roman author Pliny the
Elder names her as the artist responsible for an important lost painting
depicting Alexander the Great and Darius III in the battle of Issus. He states
that there is a mosaic copy of the painting and during the nineteenth century, excavations
at the House of the Faun in Pompeii revealed a mosaic showing the Battle of
Issus. This is now commonly considered by historians to be the mosaic copy that
Pliny mentioned, though this has been disputed because no other mosaic work by
a woman has ever been uncovered from this time period.