Italian Renaissance
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Italian Renaissance
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Italian Renaissance
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New Excavation: Roman "Reversed" Mosaic Bacchus Image

Bacchus image reversed, Roman mosaic, 3rd c ADThis is Roman illusionism at its finest and probably stunned workmen who unearthed it! This 3rd century fire-damaged mosaic Bacchus floor image was discovered in May, 2006, in an excavation that was exploring a renovation to a 1st century AD Italian villa at Palazzo Morgano, an ancient site. The mosaic image is assumed to be that of the Roman god Bacchus, so attributed because certain cult objects of the god Bacchus are represented in other images in the same panel. The mosaic Bacchus image can be viewed as two distinctly separate images when seen from opposite viewpoints. Decorating the dining room of some wealthy Roman, the mosaic Bacchus image appears one way as a beardless young man, and from another view as a bearded, bald old man. According to Dr. Mark Merrony, the mosaic Bacchus image "would have made visual sense to the viewer entering into the dining area as well as when seated. This style of representation, heads upside-down to each other as seen in this mosaic Bacchus floor image, often with youths and satyrs, is commonly found on engraved ring intaglios, but is hitherto unknown in Roman mosaics." Late Italian Renaissance/Mannerist painter, Giuseppe Arcimboldo, would take this same idea of representation to a new level with his fantastic, illusionistic portraits.

Brenda Harness, Art Historian

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