A PRIAPUS-HERMES, in the form of a cock, is receiving the worship of three birds--a turkey-cock, a goose, and a duck.
The artist's idea is not difficult to understand; it proceeds from the principle that everything in nature does homage to the generative power, animals as well as men, plants as well as animals.
The use of mosaics is too ancient to admit of our fixing its origin. The most received opinion is that it was transmitted to the Romans by the Greeks, who themselves received it from the Persians; but it was a long time making its way, for it was not until about the reign of Augustus that it became the fashion at Rome and began to spread in Italy. It soon became popular; every proprietor was desirous of having in his villa a saloon paved with mosaic; and it quickly passed from the saloon to the dining-room, and from the country to the town, till at last nothing was seen in the inside of the houses but mosaic pavement. It was introduced everywhere, into public buildings, and especially into temples. The Christians themselves adopted the use of it, and Italy possesses several churches in which fine work of this class is to be found. Thus, there may still be seen
at Naples, in the cathedral itself, the chapel of St.. Restituta, built, it is said, by Constantine the Great, entirely wainscoated with mosaic. The little town of Mont Real, near Palermo, also possesses some remarkable workmanship of this kind. The cathedral, a superb structure erected by Duke Rogero, is paved with mosaic representing gigantic heads of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Virgin, the Saints, as well as subjects taken from the Holy Scriptures. It may be remarked in passing that in this same cathedral of Mont Real repose the remains of Saint Louis, King of France. They were placed there by Charles of Anjou, on the return of that unhappy Crusade, when the flower of the French army perished under the walls of Tunis.
We have purposely mentioned the mosaics of the chapel of Saint Restituta and the cathedral of Mont Real, because they are less known, though quite as remarkable as those at Rome and the other principal cities of Italy.
Antiquaries have not settled the entomology of the word mosaic. Some derive it from μοῦσον, polished, it being a kind of work much laboured and polished; others make it come from μοῦσα (muse), because it is a work worthy of the Muses or inspired by them; and lastly, there are some who suppose the origin of the word to be musivum, a delicate, ingenious work.
Mosaics were used, among the Romans, either to cover floors and the partitions of apartments or temples, or else to form pictures, furniture ornaments, or jewels.
At first the art simply consisted in fashioning little stones into cubic form, and arranging them on a surface of adhesive matter, while so cö-ordinating the diverse colours as to form some design of arabesques, fruit, flowers, or any other object.
One instance will suffice to give an idea of the immense profusion of
work of this sort among the Romans. It is well known that the sea-coast between Pozzoli, the ancient Puteolanum, and Mycene was formerly covered with superb dwellings, where the contemporaries of Cicero came to rest from town labours. These pompous abodes are now buried under the waters of the sea, which has recovered, on that side of the Mediterranean, the territory lost in other directions. Every day, for many years past, the tide washes on the shore fragments of mosaic of a hundred blended colours; and although the fishers of the place, and especially the children, carefully collect and sell them to strangers, the mine that furnishes them is still so rich, that the writer of this book collected in one day, and in the space of a single hour, more than he could carry away.
The second species of mosaic, that of pictures, furniture, and jewels, consisted in giving diverse forms to a quantity of precious marbles of different colours, so as to be able, on joining them together, to form a regular design, or else it consisted in colouring little stones or glass beads in order to form a description of painting out of them.
Glass beads were used in the more delicate work. When the artist had soldered them together, so combining them as to obtain an exact representation of the model laid before him, he delicately sawed the bundle formed by the union of the beads, and thus procured, in a single combination, a sufficient quantity of copies exactly like each other.
The mosaic forming the subject of this explanation is of the somewhat rare kind called monochromes. It is well executed and in good preservation.