Art

Fragment of a Mosaic Pavement depicting a Peacock under a Tree


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Fragment of a Mosaic Pavement depicting a Peacock under a Tree, 5th-6th centuries
Mosaic
Syrian
,
5th-6th century
Byzantine period, Early
Creation Place: Northwestern Syria, Syria
Stone and glass tesserae embedded in mortar
114 cm h x 103 cm w x 1.6 cm d (44 7/8 x 40 9/16 x 5/8 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Martha Gefter and Thomas Lemberg in honor of David Gordon Mitten
, 2001.269
Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art & Numismatics
,
Description
The peacock is depicted mainly in profile with its head turned as it looks out over its back. It is a colorful fragment with accurate modeling of the tree, color, shading of foliage, and blue tones in the peacock's neck, which are formed by tesserae of blue glass.
Commentary
Re-View Exhibition, Spring 2008, gallery label information:

Fragment of a Mosaic Pavement: Peacock under a Tree
Late Roman or Byzantine, Syria, 5th-6th century AD
Stone and glass tesserae embedded in mortar
Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Martha Gefter and Thomas Lemberg in honor of David Gordon Mitten, 2001.269

This mosaic fragment, probably from a church, exhibits a skillful use of painterly techniques in rendering a peacock under a tree. The peacock was earlier associated with Eastern, paradisiacal gardens and functioned as a pagan symbol of springtime, renewal, and apotheosis. Appearing in every artistic medium of the Byzantine period, however, it additionally assumed connotations of the eternal triumph of Christ in a splendid, Edenlike heaven. Mosaics were placed on floors rather than walls and were a vital element in the decorative schemes of the public buildings and wealthiest houses of late antiquity.
Provenance
Purchased in 1997 by the donors Martha Gefter and Tom Lemberg from Richard Brockway of Ancient Art International formerly located in Middleboro, Massachusetts and now in Vero Beach, Florida. They were informed by the dealer that the mosaic was purchased in the early 1990s from a collection then in Europe and that it had been in that collection for many years, probably having been acquired into that collection forty to fifty years ago. According to the dealer, the collector was a Lebanese citizen who had collected a number of mosaic pavement fragments over several decades and removed them to Europe when civil strife broke out in Lebanon twenty years or so ago.
Exhibition History
Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011