Mosaic Art

Great moments in decorative mosaic art

(4 min read) American artist Jeff Koons once said, “Art has this ability to allow you to connect back through history in the same way that biology does. I’m always looking for source material.” This is especially true for mosaics, a creative tradition that dates back millennia.

For us to better appreciate mosaics, we must look back on its storied past. From its long history and master creators to world capitals and notable works, revisiting the colorful and multifaceted history of decorative mosaic art allows us to treasure the ingenuity and hard work that goes into the most contemporary of designs.


In the beginning

Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection - Mosaic Artwork
Mosaic cone, circa 3500–3100 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.


Ancient Wall Mosaic Artwork
Wall cone mosaic, 3300–3000 BCE, The British Museum collection.

Mosaics have been a popular art form in both Western and Eastern cultures across the globe for thousands of years. The earliest mosaics have been found in a temple in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) dating back to 3000 BCE. Made with ivory, seashells, and stones, these decorative, yet abstract pieces would pave the way for mosaics in Ancient Greece and Rome.


Ancient Greeks

Greek Mosaic Artwork and Designs
Dionysos riding a leopard, 400 BCE.


Ancient and Rustic Mosaic Artwork
Lion hunt mosaic from Pella, late 4th century BCE, Pella Archaeological Museum collection.

The ancient Greeks in 400 BCE raised the early pebble technique in decorative mosaic art to a fine craft, with precise geometric patterns and detailed scenes of people and animals. According to ancient Roman historian Pliny the Younger, Sosos was one of the most renowned mosaic artists in antiquity. None of his work survives to this day; however, Roman copies tell of Sosos’ ability to create trompe l’oeil effects that created an optical illusion or three-dimensional effect.


Roman Empire

Bound Rooster Ancient Mosaic Artwork
Mosaic floor panel depicting a bound rooster, 100–200 CE, Art Institute of Chicago collection.


Roman Mosaic Artwork
Mosaic floor panel, 200 CE, Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.

The ancient mosaic as it is widely known today came into fruition during the Roman Empire. Eager to adopt the artistic culture of the ancient Greeks, the Romans further refined the mosaic craft and transformed the art from exclusive to commonplace. Using more advanced technology, the Romans also made tiles more uniform in size and shape for easier application. This allowed for greater detail and realism.


Byzantine Empire and Medieval Period

Byzantine Mosaic Artwork and Designs
Head of Christ, 12th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.


The high priest Aaron Mosaic Artwork
The High Priest Aaron, 11th century, St. Sophia of Kyiv collection.

From the 4th century until the Renaissance, decorative mosaic art lavishly ornamented Christian churches. Ethereal glass mosaic crafts adorned the ceilings and floors of these places of worship. Intricately detailed and glimmering with gold leaf and precious stones, these mosaics were meant to amaze churchgoers and pilgrims with portraits of biblical figures and early saints. During the Renaissance, however, the mosaic as an art form waned. Artists shunned the extravagance of religious mosaics, and painting gradually became the preferred medium.


Islamic architecture

Ismalic Mosaic Artwork
Mihrab (prayer niche), late 15th–16th century, Cincinnati Art Museum collection.


Islamic Mosaic Designs and Art
Glazed tile; a fragment of mosaic with Muḥaqqaq inscription and scrolls, circa 1400, The British Museum collection.

Mosaics were a widely used form of decoration not only in Europe but in the Middle East as well. Highly geometric patterns are a staple of Islamic architecture, especially in the 7th and 8th centuries. These mosaics often featured repeating, mathematical, and symmetrical forms and vibrant colors that appeared in both the interiors and exteriors of mosques and other structures.


Modern era

Beautiful Peacock Mosaic Artwork
Peacock Mosaic from the entrance hall of the Henry O. Havemeyer House, New York, 1890–1891, University of Michigan Museum of Art collection.


Gaudi Mosaic Artwork
Gaudi Parc Güell lizard mosaic. Image by Mosaics Lab

Mosaics crafts were revived centuries later by modern artists at the turn of the 20th century. Great masters such as Antonio Gaudi helped keep the ancient art form alive and later influenced contemporary mosaicists. Other renowned artists such as Gustav Klimt would be inspired by Byzantine mosaics in painting their canvases.


Mosaics today

Mosaics are in a healthy state in the 21st century. They are used as kitchen backsplashes, craft projects, garden art, fine art, sculpture, as well as in public art. Just like in ancient times, they are still a striking way to accent the home, creating the feel of a grand villa.

Handmade Mosaic Mural by Mosaics Lab
Mosaic Artwork Masterpiece in progress. Mosaic Design — Copyright © Mosaics Lab

For timeless, modern, or avant-garde mosaic designs, visit Mosaics Lab. We specialize in authentic and handmade mosaic art pieces brought to life by artisans who have mastered their craft for generations.


LIKE THIS? PLEASE SHARE AND “SUBSCRIBE” TO CATCH THE NEXT ONE.

FOLLOW OUR STORY AS IT UNFOLDS ON INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | PINTEREST

WE ADD NEW WORKS EVERY DAY, CHECK OUR LATEST MOSAIC ARTWORK COLLECTION.

Mosaics Lab Awarded Best of Houzz Award
Previous post

Mosaics Lab Awarded Best Of Houzz 2021 Award

Celebrating Black History Month
Next post

5 powerful mosaic designs influenced by Black history

C. Tensuan

C. Tensuan

Carla Tensuan is a specialized content writer and visual arts enthusiast who writes about the arts, mosaic art, Interior Design, and the latest trends in decor.

35 Comments

  1. Amber Myers
    February 11, 2021 at 11:38 am — Reply

    How gorgeous. I am loving these colors. These are so many amazing mosaics out there.

  2. Krysten Quiles
    February 11, 2021 at 11:45 am — Reply

    So beautiful, thank you for sharing these!

  3. Cristina Mandeville
    February 11, 2021 at 1:23 pm — Reply

    I love how informative this post is! My family loves History. We also enjoy art and the history behind it.

  4. Kathy K.
    February 11, 2021 at 1:26 pm — Reply

    I always find it amazing when I see mosaics depicting art. I can’t imagine the thought process of creating a mosaic as big as these. It must have been taxing.

  5. Elizabeth Keene
    February 11, 2021 at 2:04 pm — Reply

    This artwork is stunning! It’s amazing how talented people are. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Tara Pittman
    February 11, 2021 at 3:47 pm — Reply

    This history was so cool to learn. I love that this art has been around a long time.

  7. Liam
    February 11, 2021 at 8:14 pm — Reply

    I was really impressed with mosaic cones. I’ve never heard of them. So much I am learning from your posts.

  8. Emily Terrell
    February 11, 2021 at 8:53 pm — Reply

    So many beautiful renditions! I’m both amazed and happy to know that they are thriving through the ages. Mosaics are truly amazing and unique art.

  9. Nikki Wayne
    February 12, 2021 at 2:34 am — Reply

    Such great artworks! Love all of these.

  10. CA
    February 12, 2021 at 6:53 am — Reply

    Wow! It never crossed my mind to check on the history of mosaic art. There is so much to it all around the world. Thanks for making it easy for us. It was fun seeing its evolution.

  11. denise
    February 12, 2021 at 7:25 am — Reply

    wow – love the art pieces. Would definitely make a great conversation starter at one of my parties

  12. Twain
    February 12, 2021 at 8:12 am — Reply

    This is just outstanding, knowing how mosaics are part of the old, old history.

  13. Susan Quackenbush
    February 12, 2021 at 8:33 am — Reply

    My favorite is the Dionysos riding a leopard.

  14. Viano
    February 12, 2021 at 1:36 pm — Reply

    Wow! That’s a lot of history there. Just look at the attention to details! Interesting read.

  15. Moni
    February 12, 2021 at 1:48 pm — Reply

    All these are so authentic yet beautiful. Loved the lion one!

  16. Claudia Blanton
    February 12, 2021 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    this may be weird, but that Roman chicken is my favorite! It is really pretty, and simple, yet beautiful! Stunning!

  17. Serena
    February 12, 2021 at 3:00 pm — Reply

    Love the mosaic with Muḥaqqaq inscription and scrolls. It’s gorgeous!

  18. Annie Mason
    February 12, 2021 at 4:06 pm — Reply

    You will pardon me if I flaunt my degree in Art History (UMASS, 1987) and enjoy commenting on the history of “mosaics” in art. How can one ignore a technique that dates back to 3000 BCE. And what a technique it is: broken ivory, seashells, stone, and in modern art…practically anything the artist can get their hands on. become luminous, shimmery objects that evolve into revered images that dot the ceilings of churches across the globe and modern pieces that this website presents to happy viewers.
    It’s why I come back again and again.

  19. Leane
    February 12, 2021 at 4:17 pm — Reply

    Totally enjoyed reading your post about decorative art in mosaics and how it has been featured over time and in history. So interesting to see the pieces being featured as well

  20. Lavanda Michelle
    February 12, 2021 at 8:56 pm — Reply

    These are all so nice to look at. Especially Dionysus riding the leopard, looks very “royal” and beautiful. Thanks for posting!

  21. Heather
    February 12, 2021 at 9:12 pm — Reply

    These are so beautiful, love seeing the differences in time/local. The Gaudi lizard is my favorite, I’m totally inspired to try some mosaic art with my kids now!!

  22. Joyce
    February 13, 2021 at 2:01 am — Reply

    I always admire these types of artwork. It allows me to see the beauty of the work from within.

  23. Lyosha
    February 13, 2021 at 8:59 am — Reply

    I have always been fascinated by mosaics used in Islamic culture, it greatly affected my own vision of beauty growing up. Greek mosaic is my favorite from the times of old. I have seen a lot in Cyprus in mint condition, it was my favorite break from sport

  24. Ramil Hinolan
    February 13, 2021 at 10:25 am — Reply

    The designs are amazing. I like mosaic, making it as decorative.

  25. Garf
    February 13, 2021 at 10:34 am — Reply

    They all look pretty. However, my favorite is the wall cone mosaic art.

  26. Melissa Cushing
    February 13, 2021 at 12:27 pm — Reply

    I totally enjoyed this post and love the history behind the art of mosaics. Very interesting and I am a serious history buff so I find this totally Coll and very interesting 🙂

  27. yudith napitupulu
    February 13, 2021 at 12:49 pm — Reply

    Ancient Roman, Greek, byzantine art is a very broad topic and and fascinating. There is a great appreciation for aesthetic beauty and the philosophical theory behind it.

  28. Catherine
    February 13, 2021 at 3:17 pm — Reply

    So many beautiful pieces of artwork here. I love mosaic tiling and could scroll through it for hours. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  29. Mila R
    February 13, 2021 at 3:33 pm — Reply

    OMG, I love the blue one. Reminds me of Samarkand. I always enjoy our posts!

  30. Akriti Bahal
    February 14, 2021 at 9:16 pm — Reply

    I love reading this post about decorative mosaics art. I love the Lion one!

  31. Blair Villanueva
    February 14, 2021 at 9:30 pm — Reply

    Mosaic is a very tedious and time-consuming part, but all the works are worth it. Imagine spending heaps of time and energy designing and conceptualizing each piece, and the materials needed. No wonder it is magnificent!

  32. Yani
    February 15, 2021 at 1:10 pm — Reply

    I loved reading this and seeing the evolution of mosaic. Mosaic is such a beautiful and expressive form of art. Love it!

  33. Candace Hampton
    February 15, 2021 at 6:20 pm — Reply

    What a great and informative read! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us and these beautiful pieces to compliment your post. I like that these pieces tell a story and they have withstood time and are still being talked about. History can be found anywhere.

  34. Jocelyn N Nielson
    February 18, 2021 at 8:02 pm — Reply

    These are absolutely stunning! I love that they still exist for us to see. Thank you for sharing these!

  35. Jocelyn N Nielson
    February 18, 2021 at 8:02 pm — Reply

    These are absolutely stunning! I love that they still exist for us to see. Thank you for sharing these!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *