AP®︎/College Art History
- The classical orders
- The Athenian Agora and the experiment in democracy
- Anavysos Kouros
- Peplos Kore from the Acropolis
- Making Greek vases
- Niobid Painter, Niobid Krater
- Polykleitos, Doryphoros (Spear Bearer)
- Polykleitos, Doryphoros (Spear-Bearer)
- Parthenon (Acropolis)
- The Parthenon
- Who owns the Parthenon sculptures?
- Phidias, Parthenon sculptures (pediments, metopes and frieze)
- "Plaque of the Ergastines" fragment from the frieze on the east side of the Parthenon
- Victory (Nike) Adjusting Her Sandal, Temple of Athena Nike (Acropolis)
- Grave Stele of Hegeso
- Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace
- Great Altar of Zeus and Athena at Pergamon
- Alexander Mosaic from the House of the Faun, Pompeii
- Apollonius, Seated Boxer
The Battle of Alexander and Darius mosaic captures a turning point in ancient history. Darius, the Persian king, orders a retreat, while Alexander, the Greek general, shows confidence. The mosaic, found in Pompeii, is thought to be based on an ancient Greek painting by Philoxenos. It showcases the Greeks' mastery of naturalism and foreshortening. Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
Want to join the conversation?
- Why is there a face on Alexander's breastplate? (see1:35)(14 votes)
- Alexander's breastplate depicts the head of Medusa, which was often used as a sort of magical charm against evil. It also indicates divine birth. More detailed information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorgoneion(21 votes)
- what happened to the left side of the mosaic? did the volcano brake some of the stones away?(4 votes)
- There is some thought that the missing areas are actually the result of foot traffic when the mosaic was in use. http://news.discovery.com/history/how-the-alexander-mosaic-was-used.html Nancie Mills Pipgras, Editor mosaicartnow.com(8 votes)
- At4:04, it says everything in Pompeii was covered in a layer of volcanic dust. I have two questions about this:
1. How didn't the dust get permanently stuck to the painting and make it darker or something?
2. How did the dust preserve the place? Wasn't it already kind of preserved because of the eruption?(4 votes)
- 1. Because, to put it simply, the dust (well, ash actually) was apparently not sticky, so it could easily be cleaned off again.
2. The ash was expelled by the eruption, so it's part of the same event. The ash preserved Pompeii by burying it, protecting it from the elements and from vandalism.(5 votes)
- Notice that the background tree seems unnaturally and unnecessarily cut short to the same level as the spears. Harris and Zucker comment on the mosaic's low-weighted compression briefly, but the tree's shortness suggests to me that there may have been some reason for the empty space at the top (and bottom) of the mosaic. Any suggestions as to why that barren, trimmed tree is hanging out back there?(4 votes)
- Dr Harris describes the context in which this mosaic was found within the city of Pompeii. Beginning at4:11, we see a modern copy of where the original mosaic used to be situated: between two open courtyards, enclosed within an expensive mansion. Perhaps a pair of long (and appropriately expensive) rugs provided a kind of letter-boxing to this mosaic.(4 votes)
- How long would this take to make?(3 votes)
- Maybe not long at all.
There are written descriptions of mosaic creation. The process involved laying a layer of loose fabric on a table, and gluing the design to the cloth with water-based glue. The glued mosaic would dry, and the design could be easily rolled up and transported to the villa.
At the villa, a layer of mortar or cement would be laid on the floor, and the fabric glued mosaic would be unrolled upside down, with the fabric facing up. Once the mortar dried, the fabric would be mopped with water, which would release the water based glue and allow the fabric to be lifted off.
Sure, the mosaic makers would have to lay connecting tiles, but the bulk of the work could be done at a shop. The might have been able to install this mosaic in the house in a matter of days.(7 votes)
- "There was a really mania...as in Rome itself for ancient Greek culture." Would this have perhaps been the first art "bubble"? Do we know any more?(2 votes)
- Well, I don't know what you mean by an art bubble, but so far as a great increase in enthusiasm for art, I can think of several times in history preceding. There was the boom in Greek pottery making, around 700-400 BC. There were the Minoan castles and murals, etc, around 1600 BC. Then there's Egyptian architecture and iconography that continued throughout their history - going back to 2500 BC. There were numerous civilizations in the Middle East, each with their own architectural marvels - Sumerians, Babylonians, Akkadians, etc. Then, going back to around 10,000 BC, there's the temple complex of Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, filled with carvings of animal/spirits. And before that, some caves have had very extensive paintings done. So, depending on how you define this bubble, people have been doing it quite awhile.(4 votes)
- 1) You showed a reconstruction. How exactly would you know what the rest of the mosaic look like? Is it based on other Greek paintings or perhaps another version of the Battle of Issus?
2) I'm doing a powerpoint on this mosaic and wanted to cover the most important points on this piece.
3) Is this mosaic from 100 BCE or 310 BCE? I'm not sure but from my research I found that this mosaic was done in 100 BCE while it was a reconstruction from a Greek painting done by the Greek artist Philoxenos. Which one is the date for the Roman copy?(3 votes)
- As mentioned at2:37as well as in previous videos, why is the greek painting lost?(1 vote)
- Paint is fragile. Traces of ancient Greek painting survives but not much. Perhaps some day we will discover relatively intact paintings. We have Roman painting most often because of the eruption of Vesuvius and even older pre-Greek painting thanks to the eruption of ancient Thera. These were both exceptional instances.(2 votes)
STEVEN ZUCKER: In baseball, in soccer, sometimes sports announcers will look for the turning point of the game. And the scene that we're looking at-- a battle, not sport-- in fact, one of the most important battles in ancient history-- is at that particular turning point, the moment when the great ruler of Persia turns and flees under the onslaught of the great Greek general Alexander. BETH HARRIS: Darius, the king of the Persians, has just ordered his troops to retreat. STEVEN ZUCKER: So there's tremendous tension at this moment because we have this reversal of momentum. We can feel, still, the momentum that is moving in from the right because we can still see the Persian guards' spears facing towards the Greeks. But just at that moment, one of the largest objects in this mosaic, the chariot, is being spun around. And the tension and the torsion that's required for that is creating this tremendous sense of dynamism. BETH HARRIS: On the ground, we see the wounded and the dying. STEVEN ZUCKER: One of my favorite details is the reflection of one of the Persian soldiers in his own shield. BETH HARRIS: He's looking at himself fallen in battle, perhaps about to die. I think my favorite part is the horse that's part of the team leading Darius's chariot. Almost all four hoofs are off the ground. As it's being pulled toward the left, its head turns to the right. STEVEN ZUCKER: There is this almost frenetic quality to this image. BETH HARRIS: And you have a sense of confidence when you look at Alexander's face as he heads toward Darius. Darius looks fearful as he gestures toward Alexander. It looks to me as though Darius is almost pleading for the lives of his soldiers. STEVEN ZUCKER: Well, there is a look both of surprise and worry and of seeking compassion. I think that that's exactly right. Alexander is known ultimately for his compassion, at least towards Darius's family. BETH HARRIS: And Alexander is the great Greek general, the founder of an enormous empire. STEVEN ZUCKER: Well, that's right. He not only unifies Greece, but he will then move south into Egypt. He moves east into Persia, and he gets to the Indus Valley itself. So he puts under Greece's control an enormous area of the known world. And all of these details are rendered in tiny pieces of stone and glass. BETH HARRIS: So we're looking at a mosaic that we think is based on an ancient Greek painting. We hope it's based on an ancient Greek painting because almost nothing of ancient Greek painting survives. And Pliny talked about how amazing Greek painting was. STEVEN ZUCKER: Well, it's true. When we think of Greek art, we think of Greek sculpture. We might think of Greek architecture. Perhaps we think of Greek vase painting. But you're absolutely right. In the ancient world, literature tells us that what the Greeks did better than anything was wall painting. We just don't have any. BETH HARRIS: So maybe this gives us some idea. STEVEN ZUCKER: But I do find it really interesting that the mosaic is almost empty at the top and is so much weighted down towards the bottom. Especially when we remember that this was based on a painting that would have been on a wall. And so this was intended to be seen vertically, at least initially. At least, that's our best guess. BETH HARRIS: Art historians link this mosaic to a literary description of an ancient Greek painting by an artist named Philoxenos. And in this literary source by Pliny, Philoxenos is said to have created a painting of the Battle of Alexander and Darius. STEVEN ZUCKER: But here's the problem. There were probably lots of paintings of that subject. BETH HARRIS: And we know for certain that there, for example, was a woman artist who painted this subject in ancient Greece, as well. STEVEN ZUCKER: This was an incredibly important confrontation between these two generals, between these two civilizations. I'm sure there were many more. BETH HARRIS: But this is what we have, and this is what was found. And we have it because of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in '79, which preserved under a layer of volcanic ash the city of Pompeii. STEVEN ZUCKER: Including this mosaic. BETH HARRIS: This was found on the floor between two peristyles, that is, between two open courtyards that were surrounded by columns in the largest and most elaborately decorated mansion in Pompeii, often called the House of the Faun after a bronze sculpture of a faun that was found there. STEVEN ZUCKER: And the mosaic itself is of extraordinary quality. And so it's not surprising that we find it in such a lavish environment as the House of the Faun. There are apparently a million and a half pieces of stone and glass that make up this mosaic. BETH HARRIS: And the quality is not just in the fineness of the materials, but in the incredible naturalism of what we see here, which is what the ancient Greeks were known for. We have forms that, even with these tiny pieces of stone, we have a sense of modeling, of the use of light and dark to create a sense of three-dimensional forms. If we look at the horses or the faces of the figures, we see the turn of the face, the anatomy of the body. STEVEN ZUCKER: And look at the foreshortening of the animals-- for instance, of the horses. BETH HARRIS: That ancient Greek knowledge of the human body, of how it moves through space, is so clear here. STEVEN ZUCKER: And of course, all of this speaks to the Romans' regard for the achievement of ancient Greek art. BETH HARRIS: Sometimes it seems as though everyone in Pompeii wanted to imitate the ancient Greeks, to own copies of ancient Greek sculptures, ancient Greek paintings. There was a real mania, as in Rome itself, for ancient Greek culture.