Fragment of a Mosaic Floor Panel depicting a Fish, Peacock, Lamb, Bird and a Shrub

Unknown Roman
Unidentified Early Christian maker
Near East

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about 5th-6th century

Marble tesserae

Overall: 64 1/2 × 36 1/4 in. (163.8 × 92.1 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Gift of Serena Ines Valli Martin-Trigona Beskind and D. Herbert Beskind, Class of 1936

MIS.974.353

Geography

Place Made: Homs, Eastern Mediterranean, Syria, West Asia, Asia

Period

500-1000

Object Name

Building Component

Research Area

Near East

On view

Label

The cluster of creatures—a fish, a peacock, a lamb, and a bird—in this small portion of a mosaic indicates the rich complexity of the original floor decoration. Mosaics, made of small pieces of stone and glass called tesserae, were popular throughout the Roman and Byzantine empires for their lustrous shine, durability, and cooling effect in hot climates.

This mosaic likely once adorned a building near Homs, Syria. For over two thousand years, this area has been an important site of agricultural production and trade, bringing together people from throughout the region as part of the Assyrian Empire, Roman Empire, Abbasid Caliphate, and Byzantine Empire, all before the tenth century. During the period in which the mosaic was produced, Christianity began to spread through the Roman Empire, though its imagery was often still tied to other religious and cultural traditions. While the fish, lamb, and peacock are all common Christian symbols, they are also significant in other contexts. Since this fragment was excavated and removed from its original site without thorough records, we may never know if these are Christian symbols, imperial allegories, or something else altogether.

From the 2024 exhibition Ancient Narratives: A New Look at Old Art, curated by Ashley B. Offill, Curator of Collections

Course History

CLST 12.03, ANTH 13.01, Who Owns the Past?, Julie Hruby and Jesse Casana, Winter 2020

SART 17.08, Digital Drawing, Karol Kawiaka, Fall 2020

COCO 26.01, What's in Your Toolbox?, Heidi Denzel and Mokhtar Bouba, Fall 2022

COCO 26.01, What's in Your Toolbox?, Heidi Denzel and Mokhtar Bouba, Fall 2022

Anthropology 3.01, Introduction to Anthropology, Charis Ford Morrison Boke, Summer 2023

Exhibition History

Ancient and Premodern Global Cultures, Gene Y. Kim Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019.

Global Cultures at the Hood: Ancient to Premodern, Gene Y. Kim Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26. 2019.

Publication History

Treasures of the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, New York: Hudson Hill Press, 1985, p. 39.

Provenance

Purchased in Beirut, Lebanon by Peter Marks Works of Art, New York, New York, for Serena Ines Valli Martin-Trigona Beskind (1924-2017) and D. Herbert Beskind (1915-2015), New York, New York, 1973; lent to present collection, 1973; given to present collection, 1974.

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