Decoration of the mosaics
Detail from the Drunkenness of Hercules Mosaic, Maison de l'Atrium, Vienne, musée de la Civilisation Gallo-romaine, Lyon

Geometric decoration in polychromatic marble

Black and white geometric design


There is a certain hierarchy in the materials used for decoration according to the buildings and rooms to be decorated. Also, over time, as the decoration evolved, becoming more and more luxurious and reaching its apogee at the end of the IInd C. AD and in the early IIIrd C.
In general, public buildings, where sumptuousness was taken into account as much as the resistance of the materials, were paved with marble or limestone. Sometimes there are exceptions to this rule for fairly modest monuments. Thus, for example, the fanum identified to the southwest of the Place Camille Jouffray was originally paved with small stones, then had a red mortar floor (opus signinum) inlaid with cubes in a geometric pattern. In the houses, in the Ist C. AD, marble slabs in geometric patterns and polychromatic mosaic decoration were rare; at that time it was limited to medallions (emblema) laid in the centre of cement floors with or without inlays. However, black and white mosaic floors seem to have predominated, thus following the Italian workshops’ style.
Most of the mosaics that are known today in Vienne belong essentially to the second half of the IInd C. and the early IIIrd. At that time, the entire surface of the main reception rooms in the most luxurious houses was paved with polychromatic marble slabs in geometric designs. Polychromatic mosaics depicting mythological scenes were also placed in the reception rooms. In the secondary rooms or the more private rooms, we still find polychromatic designs but the figurative decoration, although varied, is more repetitive. Nevertheless, we notice a certain amount of economy in this prosperous period. For example, they contented themselves with simpler geometric patterns or vegetation designs beneath the furniture, whereas, in the open areas, the more elaborate figurative designs are concentrated in the open areas, where their subject reflects the purpose of the room.
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