Permanence of patterns – Meander

Patterns time travel…

For a long time I have been fascinated by the the permanence of patterns through time, and by the way it happens. I have been studying this for many years. This transmission does not only happen in actual paintings, drawings and mosaics, but in ALL types of human activities : Music, Architecture, Law, Religion, Psychology…
It is however easier to observe and study in graphic arts.
2 years ago I visited the Louvres Museum, hoping to be able to see the main mosaic gallery. It was unfortunately closed for renovation. I nevertheless could see quite a few mosaics for the Louvres is organized according to a very unusual logic – I am being very polite here – and Roman mosaics are scattered in many places.
So I decided to visit some of the Greek Antiquities galleries. I ended up seeing a great multitude of gorgeous jugs, craters and vases…
Attic Red-Figure Calyx Krater known as the "Niobid Krater" Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Classical Greek Art (5th-4th centuries BC)
Niobid Krater, 4th century BC
… and I got particularly interested when I observed on many of these beautiful pieces decorative patterns which would be used by Roman mosaicists many centuries later.

Meander Patterns

Today I will illustrate this permanence of patterns with the example of a decorative border used in many mosaics. We call it either Meander of Guilloche.
There are many types of meanders, from the simple monochrome double strand border to very elaborate multilevel Solomon knots.
double strand meander border
11 strands Solomon knot mosaic liuustrating the permanence of patterns of meanders or guilloche.
11 strands Solomon knot


A Mycenaean Vase

Now, to illustrate this permanence of patterns, I first chose today this Mycenaean vase.

The Mycenaean civilization was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece. The Mycenaeans spanned a period from approximately 1600–1100 BC.
Mycenaean stirrup vase, 14th-13th cent. BC, imported to Ugarit. Acropolis of Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit). Louvres Museum, Paris Illustration of the permanence of patterns in graphic arts.
Mycenaean stirrup vase, 14th-13th cent. BC

This vase is mostly decorated with simple black parallel bands on a lighter beige background. Right above the maximum diameter of the vase, the artist painted a double strand meander encased by two wide black bands.

DOuble meander pattern, Mycenaean Vase - 13th century BC
Double strand meander of above Mycenaean vase

An early Christian mosaic

And here we have an early Christian mosaic featuring a duck encased in the same double strand meander.
I pulled this picture from the article The early Christian mosaics of Delphi, Greece by Helen Miles.
early Christian mosaic of a duck encased in meander illustrating the permanence of patterns of meander
Duck_6th Century_Delphi

See for yourself…

This duck and the meander surrounding it were laid by a 6th century AD mosaicist, while the vase was painted around the 14th century BC. 2000 years separated the two craftsmen.

Think about it. The guy who laid the mosaic lived 1400 years before us. But the guy who painted the vase lived 2000 years before him.  Consider on top of this that all Bronze age civilizations of the Mediterranean and Levant brutally ended around 1100 BC, you can but only wonder how this meander pattern was kept alive for so long.

Any idea on the subject ? Leave me a note.

In a future post I’ll bring other examples of this permanence of patterns.

Amphora with trifid neck and handles Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)
Amphora with trifid neck and handles Louvres Museum


Share this:
Archetype, Delphi, duck, Greece, guilloche, meander, Mycenae, strand
Previous Post
Geometric Mosaic – Roman Tile 231 – Ostia Marina
Next Post
Opus Signinum

Related Posts

You must be logged in to post a comment.