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date: 06 December 2019


  • Catherine Harding


Closely spaced polychrome or monochrome particles (tesserae) of near uniform size embedded in a binder, such as mortar or cement. Mosaic has been used as a decorative medium on walls, floors, and columns for over 5000 years. A wide range of natural and artificial materials may be used for the tesserae: pebbles, hardstone, shells, vitreous paste, terracotta, mother-of-pearl, enamels, and turquoise. The shapes are usually fairly regular: rectangles, squares, triangles, or trapezoids. They normally vary in size from a few millimetres to more than 1 cm sq. The terms ‘tile mosaic’ and ‘mosaic faience’ are applied to a technique used in the decoration of Islamic buildings from the 11th century onwards, in which tiles of different colours were cut to form a design (see Islamic art, §II, 9(iv)). For the inlay technique of opus sectile, where stone pieces were cut into pattern shapes, see Rome, ancient, §VI, 1...

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