Man leading a giraffe mosaic

Source:Wikipedia

Mosaic Fragment with Man Leading a Giraffe


The Mosaic Fragment with Man Leading a Giraffe is a mosaic from the 5th century CE is now held in the Art Institute of Chicago. The piece is Byzantine and originated in northern Syria or Lebanon. Mosaics of this type were commonly used to decorate wealthy family villas.

BackgroundEdit


Mosaic Fragment with Man Leading a Giraffe, Byzantine, northern Syria or Lebanon
Year 5th century A.D.
Dimensions 170.8 x 167 x 6.35 cm (67 1/4 x 65 3/4 x 2 1/2 in.)
Location Art Institute of Chicago
Accession 1993.345

CreationEdit

Mosaics have a long history throughout the Mediterranean and later elsewhere. The Mosaic Fragment with Man Leading a Giraffe at the Art Institute of Chicago originated in either Syria or Lebanon. This region is rich with mosaics, an art form which uses small pieces of glass, stone, or any other hard colored material, referred to as “tesserae,” to create larger images made up of these pieces created with stone in mortar. Rather than being created by a single artist, mosaic compositions were often designed by a patron and executed by multiple artisans from a single “workshop.”[1]:8

DevelopmentEdit

The earliest known mosaics are from Mesopotamia and date to the 3rd millennium BCE, consisting of pieces of colored stones, shells, and ivory, and further examples of “paved” paths with stone and shells existed throughout Africa.[2] Mosaics overall are most commonly found in places of wealth, such as the aforementioned palaces and temples. Later, during the Hellenistic period (323 BCE-31 BCE), the popularity of mosaics surged and they were found throughout personal villas from Africa to Britain. Many of the most famous mosaics are located in northern Africa and Syria, two of the richest provinces of the Roman Empire.[3] Most of these date from the 2nd to the 7th century CE, into which the piece at the Art Institute of Chicago fits well from the 5th century.

FunctionEdit

Mosaics are found in the Levant after Roman tradition brought the style along with their control. They were most commonly used to decorate floors due to their durability, and most mosaics discovered today are found in relatively intact condition, including the primary example here. Of course, these floors would have been durable without the presence of mosaic decoration, but the desire to enhance the appearance of spaces was paramount.[1]:10 Other pieces within the Roman provinces of the Levant which resemble the Art Institute mosaic are in an African style, such as that in Cilicia, Turkey from the 3rd c. AD.[1]:58 Both of these styles resemble the Man Leading a Giraffe mosaic, alluding to a connection in location, influence, or both. Scenes of animals in mosaics throughout the Levant were common in the Roman period.[4]

Syria and Lebanon


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Dallas Museum Volunteers to Return Mosaic to Turkey

Dallas Museum Volunteers to Return Mosaic to Turkey

The mosaic is to be returned to Turkey.Dallas Museum of Art The mosaic is to be returned to Turkey.

The Dallas Museum of Art voluntarily returned an ancient marble mosaic in its collection to Turkey on Monday, after determining that the work — which dates from A.D. 194 and shows Orpheus taming animals with his lyre — was probably stolen years ago from a Turkish archaeological site.

The decision, part of a new plan by the museum to court exchange agreements with foreign institutions more actively, comes at a time when the Turkish government has become more aggressive in seeking antiquities it believes were looted from its soil. In recent months it has pressed the Metropolitan Museum of Art and several other museums around the world to return objects and, to increase its leverage, it has refused loan requests to some.

The Met says that the objects sought by Turkey were legally acquired in the European antiquities market in the 1960s before being donated to the museum in 1989.

Other museums have accused Turkey of undue intimidation. Last year the Pergamon Museum in Berlin returned a 3,000-year-old sphinx, which Turkey said had been taken to Germany for restoration in 1917. But German officials say Turkey has continued to deny loans of objects for exhibitions because of claims to other objects in the Pergamon collection.

The Dallas mosaic, bought at auction at Christie’s in 1999 for $85,000, is thought to have once decorated the floor of a Roman building near Edessa, in what is now the area around the city of Sanliurfa in southeastern Turkey. Edessa developed alliances with Rome from the time of Pompey and was sacked under the rule of the emperor Trajan.

Maxwell L. Anderson, the director of the museum in Dallas, said that when he took over at the beginning of 2012, he asked antiquities curators to identify objects that might have provenance problems.

“What I didn’t want to happen here was a succession of slow-motion claims coming at us,” he said in an interview. As part of the review, the museum has also transferred legal ownership of several objects to Italy, including a pair of Etruscan shields and three kraters, or earthenware vessels used to mix wine and water.

Turkish officials had been searching for the Orpheus mosaic for some time, Mr. Anderson said. “For whatever reason, they hadn’t found their way to the Christie’s catalog or to us,” he said.

When the museum contacted Turkey earlier this year to say that it had doubts about the mosaic, whose existence seems not to have been cited in publications before its inclusion in the Christie’s catalog, Turkish officials provided photographs of a looted site near Edessa whose physical characteristics closely matched those of the mosaic.

“I saw that, and even as a novice, I said: ‘Done,’ ” Mr. Anderson said.

Cemalettin Aydin, the consul general of Turkey in Houston, who along with other Turkish officials took possession of the mosaic at a ceremony in Dallas on Monday morning, said in prepared remarks that he applauded the museum’s “unwavering ethical stance.” He added that the restitution would lead to an active loan arrangement between Turkey and the Dallas museum. The museum has no Anatolian collection to speak of, and so the hope is that the agreement with Turkey will allow Dallas to organize ambitious exhibitions of work lent from that region.

The return of the mosaic is the first official act of the museum’s new international loan initiative, called DMX, which seeks agreements with foreign museums to share objects and to collaborate on conservation projects, exhibitions and educational programs.