Category Archives: Mosaic

Basilica Mosaic {The Story of Art}

The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. AD. 520.

“Pope Gregory the Great… reminded the [Christians] who were against all paintings that many members of the Church could neither read nor write, and that, for the purpose of teaching them, these images were as useful as the pictures in a picture-book are for children, ‘Painting can do for the illiterate what writing does for those who can read,’ he said…

“But it is clear that the type of art which was thus admitted was of a rather restricted kind. If Gregory’s purpose was to be served, the story had to be told as clearly and simply as possible, and anything that might divert from this main and sacred aim should be omitted.

“At first glance, such a picture looks rather stiff and rigid. There is nothing of the mastery of movement and expression which was the pride of Greek art… If the picture looks rather primitive to us, it must be because the artist wanted to be simple. The Egyptian ideas about the importance of clarity had returned with great force because of the stress which the Church laid on clarity. But the forms which the artists used in this new attempt were not the simple forms of primitive art, but the developed  forms of Greek painting. Thus Christian art of the Middle Ages became a curious mixture of primitive and sophisticated methods.”

Ernst H. Gombrich, “Chapter 6: A Parting of Ways,” The Story of Art, 15th edition


The Alexander Mosaic. House of the Faun, Pompei. 100 BC.



Richard Wilbur


For Alexander there was no Far East,

Because he thought the Asian continent

India ended. Free Cathay at least

Did not contribute to his discontent.


But Newton, who had grasped all space, was more

Serene. To him it seemed that he’d but played

With several shells and pebbles on the shore

Of that profundity he had not made.


The Greek historian Plutarch, in his “Life of Alexander,” wrote: “When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” Isaac Newton, who would conquer more than this in his scientific discoveries of laws of motion and gravity, wrote, “I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”