Fragments of glass or ceramic are combined in unique palettes of colors
The history of mosaic begins as early as 3000 BC. Initially mosaics had mostly a practical function: glazed clay or pebbles were used to cover and protect the walls or floors. With the Greeks and later with the Romans, also due to the influences from Egypt, an interest developed in the aesthetics of mosaic works. Incomparable examples of mosaics from the Roman imperial period, such as the masterpieces in the UNESCO heritage churches of Ravenna, those in the San Vitale Basilica in particular, witness the mastery achieved during that era.
During the Renaissance, the art of mosaics became virtuosic and their durability was increasingly appreciated. In the Baroque era, instead, it was completely subordinated to architecture and painting. Due to its historical importance and long-lasting technique, the mosaic was somehow rediscovered in the nineteenth century, as an art suitable for communicating sacred and political contents. It was only in the twentieth century though that a real rebirth of mosaic began, in connection with art movements such as expressionism and abstractionism, focussing on splitting colors, simplification and neat chromatisms. With Liberty and Art Déco this millenary technique moved definitively away from its role as a secondary art.
The mosaic can be made with multiple kinds of materials (such as stone tiles, enamel, glass tiles), each one allowing different effects and providing different advantages. The glass paste, for instance, gives an effect of transparency, the stone is easy to cut and resistant to bad weather, glazed ceramic, as well as marble, allows the use of a large range of colors, while gold and silver, inserted in a vitreous tile, ensure an exceptional brightness.
The mounting support is generally made of a mix of sand and concrete, but other supports, such as wood, plywood, glass can also be used. Mortar or cementitious adhesives or glue are used for fixing. The making can be carried out by “direct method”, which is the simplest and fastest: the design is created on the support and a thin layer of adhesive is applied. The assembly of the work starts from the outside, where the larger pieces are arranged and moves towards the center with increasingly small pieces. A layer of cement is subsequently applied to the joints, which is removed after drying. In the “indirect method” the tiles are instead attached, upside down, onto a temporary support, to obtain a flat surface, then glued on the final support. The “double method” is a combination of the two methods previously described.
The mosaic technique is now used for a wide range of works, on floors, walls, interior and exterior decorations, as well as for homeware and decorative objects.