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The Aquitaine school of mosaics

Roman mosaics of Southwestern France

The Aquitaine school of mosaics refers to a regional mosaic style followed by itinerant teams of mosaicists during the 4th and 5th century. Its regional center was located in Gallia Aquitania.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/02/Roman_Empire_-_Aquitania_%28125_AD%29.svg/721px-Roman_Empire_-_Aquitania_%28125_AD%29.svg.png

Gallia Aquitania, 125 AD

A distinctive and evolutive style

The style of this Aquitaine school of mosaics is originally the way individual subjects are designed within by boxes separated by a grid.

Grid pattern typical of the Aquitaine school of mosaics

Montmaurin Roman Villa

Those boxes contain either geometric figures (medallions, Solomon knots) or stylized plants: vines, ivy or acanthus scrolls.

Geometric patterns in Grid characteristics of the earlier Aquitaine School of mosaics

Geometric patterns in Seviac

During the 5th century local mosaicists influenced by colleagues from other parts of the empire created more original compositions. Such are the lilies and grapevine mosaics of Seviac (420-440 AD).

later style of the Quitaine school of mosaics

Seviac, mosaic with lilies

The Seviac Grapevine medallion characteristic of the later Aquitaine School of mosaics

Seviac, Grapevine medallion

These mosaic are characteristic of the evolution of this regional mosaic style influenced by external sources, very likely by mosaicists trained in Africa.

The materials used to build the mosaics were :

  • Stone : marbles from the Pyreneans, colored rocks including ophite for its green color,
  • Terracotta,
  • Glass paste for the brighter colors
Geometric patterns of the early Aquitaine school of mosaics

Montmaurin Entrance hall mosaic

Places to visit and enjoy this mosaic style :

Elusa: Domus de Cieutat. The remains of the Domus, an urban house of nearly 3,000 m2, are located in the heart of the city of Elusa. It served as a ceremonial residence for its wealthy owner. An interpretation center equipped with interactive tools allows to discover the social life in the Gallo-Roman capital of the Elusates tribe

Wine jug medallion in the mosaicstyle of 5th century Aquitaine

Elusa, Villa Laborde

Fount de Rome: Gallo-Roman villa in Fleury.

Loupiac: Gallo-Roman villa of Loupiac.

Loupiac

Loupian: Gallo-Roman villa .

This floor was laid following the local mosaic style, others mosaics in Loupian followed a different style

Loupian

The mosaics in Loupian were laid by 2 teams of craftsmen.  One team belonged to the Aquitaine school of mosaics while the other one came from the Eastern part of the Empire, probably from Syria.

Martres-Tolosane: Roman villa of Chiragan.

Montcaret: Gallo-Roman villa

Montcaret

Moncrabeau: Roman villa of Bapteste.

THe actual mosaic was lost. We only have this beautiful drawing left.

Bapteste Roman Villa

Montmaurin: Gallo-Roman villa of Montmaurin

Montmaurin

Montréal-du-Gers: the Gallo-Roman villa in Séviac. was a 6,500 m2 (65,000 square feet) Palace. It was built during the Late Roman Empire to house  an aristocratic family. It is lavishly decorated with polychrome mosaic carpets and features some large private baths.

The waves of the border are characteristic of the regional mosaic style developped by the Aqquitaine school of mosaics

Seviac

Nérac: Roman ruins of Nérac.

Nerac

 

Plassac: remains of three Gallo-Roman villas, museum on site.

Plassac's mosaic style in evolving between the earlier and later styles of the Aquitaine school of mosaics.

Plassac

Pujo-le-Plan: Gallo-Roman villa of Bignoulets.

The mosaic style of this villa is perfectly in line with the rest of the region.

Bignoulets

 

Saint-Sever: villa of Gleyzia d’Augreilh. 

Gleyzia d’Augreilh

 

Sarbazan: Gallo-Roman villa of Servatius, in Mouneyres.

Don't you love this little bird ! He is characteristic of the regional mosaic style of the late 4th century.

Servatius villa – Mouneyres

Sorde-l’Abbaye :

10th century mosaic style very similar to the one of the late empire style

Sordes

 

The mosaics, displayed inside the abbey itself, actually date from the 10th century. They are not the product of the Roman Aquitaine school of mosaics, but are still worth the visit, you will realize that some of the patterns used by the medieval mosaicist were used by the roman ones. (They in fact were already being used by the Greek vase painters of 700 BC, but this is a different story, and I am working on it too !)

 

I hope you enjoy the visits, have a glass of wine to my health !

 

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