hide menu

Sara Baldwin Designs Blog

Rome: If you want to

People often ask what inspired me to found New Ravenna. A part of the answer lies in a trip to the Metropolitan when I was in graduate school (for painting) at the University of Pennsylvania in…sheesh–1989? I looked down incredulously at an extraordinary ancient mosaic installed on their floor and thought, “Why isn’t anyone making these anymore?”

That was the beginning of my love affair with mosaics and my quest to not only re-create the feel of the old ones,

but to use the tesserae like paint, and create new designs and textures that are suitable for any style of decor or architecture. However, this post is about the old ones–specifically my favorite Tunisian mosaics that stayed when the Romans left.

Here is an excerpt from James Duncan’s blog on the history of mosaics: “Mosaics were one of the first forms of decorative art. As early as the second millennium B.C., geometric patterns in colored stones and shells decorated temples in Mesopotamia. It was in 4th century B.C. Greece where pictorial mosaics were first created. Thereafter, the genre spread throughout the Aegean, east into Persia and the Romans then diffused the art form throughout the Mediterranean basin. Some of the finest examples have been found in the North African city of Carthage and can now be seen in the Bardo Museum in Tunis.”

In 1997 I was lucky enough to visit the Bardo Museum in Tunisia (which is where most of the featured mosaics live, even the top one). On that long ago honeymoon with my now ex-husband, I literally burst into tears of joy in the middle of the museum. Curated there is possibly the most extensive collection of ancient mosaics in the world. It goes on for room after room, wall after wall. Acres of mosaics. I was in heaven. The above mosaic is my favorite, the “Navigation of Venus”. We adapted our logo from the cherub/peacock in the upper left hand corner of the below image:

Here is a photo of the complete installation, courtesy Brian McMorrow.

Check out Neptune at the top–he looks a little worried. If he knew about the state of the oceans today, he’d realize that feeling was completely justified.

I’ve always adored peacocks which is evident if you look at my header and logo, and apparently the Romans loved them too:

We once made a beautiful floor for a client in Chicago (through Kim at The Fine Line, one of our favorite dealers of all time) based upon the pattern below:

The modern look of this Tunisian mosaic was actually made in the 4th century AD–it’s tesserae are laid to mimic the look of marble slabs.

I came home from Tunisia and was re-inspired to duplicate the aged texture that we began to call “Roman-African” at New Ravenna. It consists of hand-chopped tesserae (not perfect squares) that are slightly tumbled to give them an aged look.

Above was one of our first attempts at this style, using the mosaic at the very beginning of this blog as inspiration. What do you think?! I will share some more of the results in a “part b” to this blog soon. In the meantime, Happy Holidays everyone! I am off for some much needed R and R, and am wishing you and yours much joy and prosperity this season and in the New Year.


5 Responses to “Rome: If you want to”

  1. Stunning. Simply stunning. Thanks for the information too. Happy New Year!
    Paula Grace

  2. LOVE the mosaic post! The island of Delos also has some amazing mosaics.

  3. Sara Baldwin says:

    I've heard about Delos, even had a friend give me a few photos of their trip there, but I have yet to visit Greece. Hmmm. Think I could write it off as a business trip? ;)

  4. Great post, and it was so interesting to see the photo of mosaic inspiration for your logo…As a former graphic designer, I love seeing the inspiration for and interpretation of logos.

  5. Sara, You are such a great writer! I love your blog! And I’m not just saying that because you are my big sis!

Leave a Reply

About Me

Sara BaldwinSara Baldwin

Exmore, Virginia, United States

New Ravenna Mosaics founder and Creative Director, Owner, Sara Baldwin Design, Bass guitar player, Envisioner, Appreciator of the Sublime and Ridiculous.


Subscribe To My Blog Subscribe by RSS

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Become a Facebook Fan

Blogs Worth A Gander

Overstock Mosaics

Continue to our overstock store to shop:

Continue to our overstock shop Return to newravenna.com for our full offering of custom and ready to ship mosiacs