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Roman mosaic patterns - A Visual Glossary

Roman mosaic patterns - A Visual Glossary


Glossary of typical ornamental Roman mosaic patterns with pictures linked to examples from our Roman mosaics for sale.

After looking at this glossary, you will be able to easily recognize mosaic patterns and give name to the typical Roman mosaic adornments.

Swastika meander

The swastika is a sign of good luck since the ancient times. With strong and straight masculine lines, mosaic makers were using it as a geometric mosaic adornment.

Mosaic pattern: Swastika meander

Greek meander

Symbols of eternity and unity, Greek key meanders were common for adornment in Greek and Roman architecture, paintings, pottery and mosaics.

Mosaic pattern: Greek meander

"T" meander

Alternative Meander pattern to the common Greek key.

Mosaic pattern: T meander

Broken & Straight meander

Mosaic pattern: Broken and Straight meander

Simple guilloche

Defining the visual borders of compositions and adding visual movement, the guilloche is one of the most common Roman mosaic patterns made by interlacing 2 moving strand lines.

Mosaic pattern: Simple guilloche
Mosaic pattern: Simple guilloche black and white
Mosaic pattern: Simple guilloche black and white

Three-strand guilloche

Mosaic pattern: Three-strand guilloche

Four-strand guilloche

Mosaic pattern: Four-strand guilloche

Six-strand guilloche

Mosaic pattern: Five-strand guilloche

Chain guilloche

Mosaic pattern: Chain guilloche

Cubes in 3d perspective

Commonly combined with other geometric compositions, 3d cubes were repeatedly appearing on Roman mosaics or as a whole composition itself.

Mosaic pattern: Cubes in 3d perspective

Solomon knot

A widely mystified symbol but with most probable origin as a symbol of ancient wool weaving techniques.

Mosaic pattern: Solomon Knot
Mosaic pattern: Solomon Knot

Crowstep

This pattern of Greek origin was widely used for early mosaic floors and the more modest designs.

Mosaic pattern: Crowstep
Mosaic pattern: Crowstep
Mosaic pattern: Crowstep

Imbrication

Usually made of a colorful palette, this pattern resembles the overlapping of edges found in the nature like those of fish scales and pinecones.

Mosaic pattern: Imbrication

Shield of triangles

Very commonly used together with Medusa mosaics, this geometric patterns creates a very sophisticated optical effect on floors. For example the medusa mosaic in the House of Apuleius.

Mosaic pattern: Shield of triangles
Mosaic pattern: Shield of triangles

Floral vault pattern

Mosaic pattern: Floral vault pattern
Mosaic pattern: vault pattern

Star of lozenges

Common decoration when the delimiting lines of mosaic compositions get crossed. Many examples exist, the most significant is the mosaic in the House of Drinking Contest.

Mosaic pattern: Star of lozenges

Pelta

Ancient semi-circular shape featured in many Roman mosaics.

Mosaic pattern: Pelta
Mosaic pattern: Pelta
Mosaic pattern: Pelta

Scroll (resembling acanthus or floral)

An adornment of feminin forms typically found on Dyonisus or Bacchus mosaics.

Mosaic pattern: Scroll
Mosaic pattern: Scroll
Mosaic pattern: Scroll

Dentilled band

Mosaic pattern: Dentilled band

Bead and Reel

Common ornamental element of Greek and Roman architecture, also appeared on mosaic adornments.

Mosaic pattern: Bead and Reel

Wave Band

Another adornment borrowed from Greek arquitecture and pottery.

Mosaic pattern: Wave Band
Mosaic pattern: Wave Band

Palmette

Borrowed from Greek art ornaments, the early Roman mosaic included palmettes as a mosaic pattern.

Mosaic pattern: Palmette Frieze

Ivy Scroll

Mosaic pattern: Ivy Scroll

Fillet

The below is an interesting example of monochrome fillet. Common fillets are black and white without change of direction.

Mosaic pattern: Fillet

Lotus Band

Mosaic pattern: Lotus Band

Wavy Ribbon (Usually 3D)

Mosaic pattern: Wavy 3D Ribbon
Roman mosaic patterns are beautiful additions for architectural elements like stair risers or classical friezes.

Please leave us a comment if you recognize any pattern we did not include.

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3 comments


  • Arputharani Sengupta

    A comprehensive list, quite useful to compare with the decorative patterns in Greco-Buddhist reliefs in Gandhara and Ajanta murals. Thanks.


  • Boyer Smith

    hey how you doing


  • Lawrence Payne

    Interesting post, it is difficult as there are different classifications out there and I think that ‘Le Decor Geometrique Mosaique Romaine’ does over complicate many of the names. The second example under ’Solomon’s knot’ is a triple Solomon’s knot with an interwoven square.


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