Origins of Marble Mosaics

The marble mosaic tradition is a form of art decoration that has existed for nearly four thousand years, with origins in Greek architecture.

The earliest known mosaics date from the 8th century BC and are made of pebbles, a technique refined by Greek craftsmen in the 5th century. Pebbles of uniform size, ranging in color from white to black, were collected and used uncut to form floor and pavement mosaics.

Even with this seemingly limited technique, Greek craftsmen were able to create elaborate and complex designs, using pebbles between one and two centimeters in diameter and outlining areas with tiny black pebbles.

By the 4th century, pebbles painted red and green were added to give greater variety of effect.

Throughout antiquity, mosaic remained primarily a technique used for floors or pavements where durability and resistance to wear were paramount considerations.

Stone, especially marble and limestone, was particularly suitable for this purpose. It could be cut into small pieces and the natural colors of stone provided a reasonable basic range of hues for the artist.

Although the art form is traditionally credited to the Greeks, it is known that the Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians and other early civilizations possessed and developed the techniques of creating mosaic decoration.

The Roman mosaics are considered to be the best examples of this type of art. They developed and refined the technique for the application on walls and floors in upper-class homes, villas and public buildings.

Mosaic decoration continued after the fall of the Roman Empire with its use in Christian, Byzantine, Persian and Indian architecture.

As time passed, however, mosaics were seen less and less in art and decoration. Although the mosaic tradition began to lose its widespread appeal, the art form continued to develop and flourish in Venice, Greece and Lebanon.

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