Coming to a library near you soon (one hopes, given the investment involved in owning a copy) is the third volume in David Neal and Stephen Cosh’s project to create the first complete corpus of Roman mosaics of Britain.

This volume (bound in two parts) covers the areas of Britain that came under Roman control first and where some of the earliest mosaics are to be found — the mainly black-and-white geometric designs of 1st-century Fishbourne Palace, for example, reflecting contemporary Gaulish fashions. But it also has some of Britain’s most impressive figurative mosaics — Bignor’s Ganymede and gladiatorial scenes and Lullingstone’s Europa and the Bull, for example, or the Bacchus of London’s Leadenhall Street.

Some of these mosaics are amongst the earliest to be uncovered, and the copious illustrations include many a fine antiquarian depiction by such pioneering early 19th century mosaic painters as Richard Smirke and Charles Stothard, along with the authors’ own characteristic gouache paintings, which render the mosaics in faithful colour and detail.

The three volumes now out comprise a rich resource for students of Roman art, craftsmanship, architecture and social life, due to be completed around a year from now, with the fourth and final volume covering the riches of Western Britain and Wales, the region that witnessed the flowering in the 4th-century of the mosaic workshop or team of makers dubbed ‘the Corinium School’.

 

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