03 January 2015

Ancient Patterns: Battistero di San Giovanni

detail of the mosaic floor, Baptistry, Florence
I collect patterns and details.  I just do.  I will spend over an hour staring at the floor in a dark historic site while everyone else is snapping shots of the famous gold mosaic ceiling and walking through the other side in less than 5 minutes on their way to the next famous spot. Then I will go back and do it again the next day. And maybe the next as well.
You understand why I do this.  Of course you do, that's why you are here.


mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence

The Baptistry of St. John is one of Florence's oldest buildings, having been built on the remains of 4th century octagonal church which was built on the remains of a Roman-era tower.  The present building dates from 1059, and the intricate marble mosaic floors were added circa 1209.  
Surprisingly, the oldest ornamental patterns in this space are also the most modern-looking. 

mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
Similar patterns are also found in St. Mark's in Venice and other Romanesque and Byzantine interiors, many of them influenced by ancient Oriental and Arabic designs and by the popularity of cosmatesque ornament from Rome.
All of these patterns are unified in this room only by their limited palette of red, black, and white (with the occasional yellow). They are laid out on the floor in an asymmetrical grid divided by borders, with little or no repeated elements;  a marvelous collection of  flat but intricate designs that create a rich atmosphere indeed.

mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence

mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence
mosaic marble floor in the Baptistry, Florence



If you can believe it, there are even more photos of these floors in my Flickr album: Battistero di San Giovanni, Firenze




need more now?

Modern mosaic floors at New Ravenna

Dover Edition: Historic Designs and Patterns in Color from Arabic and Italian Sources









 

10 comments:

Theresa Cheek said...

Stop it! I can't handle the perceptual overload. These are wonderful photos Lynne, Amazing!

Daydreamer said...

Wow! I have studied this type of flooring through the lens of Medieval Miniature Book illuminations... thinking the patterns Must be invented... although knowing in my heart they are not! The Medieval artists were very precise in their renderings of their world. There is similar pattern overload in the floor of Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in England. (I have copied some in the miniature castle dollhouse floor I am building)
Isn't it endlessly amazing, the beauty that has been created down through the ages?
Thank you for sharing these photos!

Mark Ruffner said...

These are all gorgeous, Lynne. I am especially attracted to the combination of stripes and checkers (gb12). I really appreciated going to your Flickr site and seeing the blocks of patterns at a distance. Happy New Year to you!

Lynne Rutter said...

You know you are trying to figure out how to make a stencil out of one of these right now! admit it.

Lynne Rutter said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! I remember the Cosmati Pavement in Westminister was recently restored, it's also from the 13th century and I would not be surprised if at least one of these exact patterns was used there. I think that it was very likely brought to England from Italy and may have been made by artisans of the same tradition.

Lynne Rutter said...

So Mark, what are you going to put on the floor of your Pompeiian room?

penelopebianchi said...

Brilliant!

You can sell these things!!

WOW!!!! We decorators will buy!!!

Penelope

Mark Ruffner said...

Hi again, Lynne — I was just looking at photographs of the Sistine Chapel's floor, and it too is a wonderful collection of patterns.

My house currently has a gray wall-to-wall carpet that works well with all the color schemes, but the Pompeii Room definitely cries out for a mosaic floor, and I'd love to do that eventually. If and when I do, I know where to look for great reference!

Stephen Hyde said...

Hello. I am scientist writing a specialist monograph on entangled structures and am keen to use your photo at the top of this page. Is that possible, if I acknowledge you?

Lynne Rutter said...

Hello Stephen. Sorry for the delayed response, I'd be happy for your to use the image (it is watermarked already) with credit. If you need one larger or formatted specifically please email me ornamentalist (a) gmail.com

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