Mosaic-Craftsmen and Workshop-organization in the Provinces of Arabia and Palestina during Late-Antiquity
This research focuses on figurative Byzantine mosaic-floors that have been excavated in the geographical area of the ancient provinces of Palestina and Arabia (current Israel, PA and Jordan) dating to the Late 5th, 6th and early 7th centuries C.E.
Mosaic floors in the ancient provinces of Palestina and Arabia (current Israel, PA and Jordan) dating to the Late 5th, 6th and early 7th centuries C.E have survived to a remarkable degree and were applied in a variety of buildings: churches, synagogues, private homes, shops, bath-houses and burial-chambers. While modern study has focused mainly on the iconographical and iconological aspects of these mosaics, the current research concentrates on problem of production and the organization of the workshop. This is done through developing the tools of morphological analysis as a main methodology to recognize the work of an individual artist within the larger framework of the Byzantine mosaic artistic traditions.
The study struggles with a row of theoretical problems related to technique and style in the art of Late Antiquity. Various pre and misconceptions have moved modern study away from identifying individual artists, while this in fact may serve as the main key to shed new light upon questions relating to mosaic production, such as: How many artists produced a mosaic floor? Can this group of artists be recognized as a workshop? What is the geographical range in which an artist or a workshop was active? Did artists specialize in certain iconography? To which degree would this specialization dictate the chosen subject or depicted motifs? And what is the relation between the artist and the commissioner?
The morphological analysis refers to technical criteria (such as material, size and shape of stones, techniques of inlay, use of color) as well as stylistic criteria (the treatment and creation of volumes, textures and illusionist effects), filled by information gained from direct sources, especially the accompanying inscriptions, which usually state the date of completion of the work, the name of the commissioner(s), and sometimes also the names of the producers.