Beauty of Imperfection – Mosaics and Cobblestones

The Beauty of imperfection

Mosaics perfectly demonstrate the beauty of imperfection and precisely illustrate the French aphorism quoted by Voltaire : “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” : Perfect is the ennemy of Good.

I was walking last evening in the street of Saint Valery sur Somme. This place has been inhabited way before the Roman invasion. William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc both visited it. I walked from the harbour down the river bank. Once out of town I followed the sand path to the ruins of an old flintsone tower and climbed the trail up the old cliff to the medieval city. A very soft drizzle, le “Crachin”, was keeping the temperature higher than usual, and the walk was very pleasant.

Winter Solstice on wet cobblestones

This was winter solstice, the shorter day of the year. As the sun went down, city lights came up. Their golden light bringing warm hues to the wet – and slippery –  cobblestones paving the streets.

Beauty of Imperfection : wet cobblestone pavement reflecting street lights in Medieval town of St Valery sur Somme, France.
Cobblestones pavement in Medieval Saint Valery sur Somme


Low light on an uneven Glass Mosaic

It reminded me of the way the sunset can reflect on the tesserae of glass or polished stone mosaics. Through the effect of subsurface reflection, the water on the stones reflects the light in the same way the polished surface of the glass does it, and gives it a darker and more contrasted color.

Beauty of Imperfection : Low angle light refection on Opus Pixellatum mosaic
Low angle light on Opus Pixellatum mosaic portrait


The magic of mosaics comes from the way each tessera reflects the light at a slightly different angle. (Ever heard of Indra’s net ?) I have seen amazing mosaic tables polished to perfect flatness and shine. This technique is very close to Opus sectile, and the results can be amazingly beautiful.

Petra Dura inlaid stone table tray
Hard stone marquettery table tray


But when I see how a regular uneven opus sectile or pixellatum piece sparkles, how it can look so differently depending upon where we look at it from,  I realize how much more enjoyable it can be… At least to me…

Beauty of Imperfection : Light reflections on glass Opus pixellatum mosaic and wet Cobblestone street pavement.
Opus Pixellatum glass mosaic and cobblestone pavement.


How do you feel about this ?

Have you experienced this problem with so called Perfection in Art or other domains ?

Do you think Perfection is the ennemy of the Good ? Does Absolute Perfection exist or is it just a concept relative to a specific context ?


A perplex ladybug questioning perfection






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beauty, cobblestone, imperfection, light, mosaic, rain, Saint Valery, subsurface reflection, tessera, wet
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