Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.05.20

Jose Maria Blazquez, Mosaicos romanos de España.   Madrid:  Ediciones Cátedra, 1993.  Pp. 720.  ISBN 84-376-1125-3.  

Reviewed by John R. Clarke, University of Texas at Austin
Word count: 1010 words

Despite its title, Mosaicos romanos de España is neither a survey of Roman mosaics of Spain nor a book with a coherent thesis. Instead it is a collection of 41 essays published by the author between 1974 and 1992. Although the typeface is the same throughout, and thus the essays are not strictly speaking reprinted, there is little evidence of editorial revision: the form of citations varies from one essay to another, and there are many spelling errors. The book's main value is in making available essays published in Festschriften or in periodicals that are difficult to find. Some of the articles were published in collaboration with other authors.

For the scholar who wishes an overview of subject the Roman mosaics of Spain, there are two available studies: Mercedes Durán Penedo, Iconografía de los Mosaicos romanos en la Hispania alto-imperial (Barcelona, 1993) and Milagros Guardia Pons, Los Mosaicos de la Antigüedad tardía en Hispania: Estudios de Iconografía (Barcelona, 1992). In addition, for specific regions ten volumes of the Corpus de Mosaicos Romanos de España have appeared between 1978 and 1993, the first two by Antonio Blanco Freijeiro, the rest by José María Blázquez and various collaborators. There is a separate project for mosaics from the region of Catalonia; to date we have one volume, by X. Barral i Altet, on the mosaics of Barcelona (1978). There is also an ongoing project for a Corpus of the Mosaics of Portugal, of which one volume has appeared, on the Casa dos Pepuxos at Conimbriga by J. M. Bairrao Oleiro (1992).

In an effort to organize the diverse articles and notes that comprise Los Mosaicos Romanos de España, the author has fit them into seven chapters that lay out general areas of discussion according to various criteria. Beyond these chapter-rubrics, there is no real apparatus for extracting specific information from the text, short of reading every article or hoping to find a photograph of a specific motif that is of interest to the reader. An index would have greatly improved this publication, for it would have pointed the reader to the places where the author discusses specific problems of iconography or style. Good photographs would have also helped; as it is they are all in black-and-white and of generally poor quality.

Rather than reviewing each of the 41 articles here, I will list them here in translation. My hope is that readers of this review who find a topic that is of interest to them will then search within this volume. In this list, I include in parentheses the original date of publication and inclusive page numbers to give a sense of the scope of each article.

Chapter 1, Art and Society in Spanish Mosaics, contains twelve articles: "Art and Society in Spanish Mosaics" (1975, 15-29); "Spanish Mosaics of the Barbarian Invasions: Aesthetic Problems" (1986, 30-43); "Art and Society in Spanish Mosaics from Navarra" (1987, 44-69); "African Influences in Spanish Mosaics" (1990, 70-92); "Shared Aspects of Mosaics from Cerdeña and Africa" (1991, 93-106); "Art and Mythology in Mosaics from Palencia" (1987, 107-128); "Art and Society in Mosaics from Emérita Augusta" (1991, 129-164); "The Discovery of Roman Mosaics at Beas de Segura (Jaén)" (1986, 165-169); "A Roman Mosaic from Vilches (Jaén)" (1987, 170-173); "Late Antique Mosaics in Hispania" (1992, 174-199); "The Mosaic from the Roman Villa of Vega de Ciego" (1987, 200-205); "Names of Charioteers, of possessores, of Hunters, and of Dogs in the Mosaics of Spain and Africa" (1992, 206-218).

Chapter 2, Mosaics of the Circus and of the Hunt, includes the following articles: "Mosaics and Paintings with Scenes of the Circus in the Archaeological Museums of Madrid and Mérida" (1974, 221-226); "The Mosaic of Dulcitius (Villa El Ramalete, Navarra) and Sassanian Cups" (1982, 227-231); "Roman Mosaics: Campo de Villavidel (León) and Casariche (Sevilla)" (1985, 232-244); "Iconography of Daily Life: Themes of the Hunt" (1990, 245-271).

Chapter 3, Dionysiac Mosaics of Hispania, includes these articles: "The Roman Mosaics from Torre de Palma (Monforte, Portugal)" (1980, 275-306); "The Mosaic of the Triumph of Dionysus from the Roman Villa at Baños de Valdearados (Burgos)" (1982, 307-317); "Bacchic Mosaics on the Iberian Peninsula" (1984, 318-332).

Chapter 4, Mythological Mosaics, includes: "Spanish Mosaics of the Late Empire, I" (1984, 335-350); "Atalanta and Meleager in a Roman Mosaic from Cardeñagimeno (Burgos)" (1986, 351-362); "Spanish Mosaics of the Late Empire, II" (1977-1978, 363-379); "Mithraic Cosmology in a Mosaic from Emérita Augusta" (1986, 380-385); "Mythology in Hispano-Roman Mosaics" (1986, 386-444).

Chapter 5, Mosaics of Various Themes, gives us: "Analysis of Pebble Mosaics at Cástulo (Jaén)" (n.d., 447-457); "Marriage Symbolism in the Mosaic from Fuente Álamo (Puente Genil, Córdoba) and Other Spanish Mosaics" (1988, 458-475); "A Paleochristian Mosaic in the Museum of Huesca" (1990, 476-479); "Roman Mosaics from Zamora. Santa Cristina de la Polvorosa. Workshops and Artistic Taste" (1990, 480-487); "Sea Transport in Representations in Roman Mosaics, Reliefs, and Paintings from Ostia" (1990-1991, 488-502); "The Sea Transport of Amphoras in Roman Mosaics" (n.d., 503-506); "African Pavements with Bull-Spectacles" (1990, 507-540); "Destruction of Mythological Mosaics by Christians" (1990, 541-550); "Pagan Mythological Themes in Christian Churches of the East" (1990, 551-562).

Chapter 6, Roman and Byzantine Mosaics of the East, includes: "Roman Mosaics of Syria" (1992, 565-580); "The Museum of Mosaics in the Great Palace at Byzantium" (1989, 581-589); "Mosaics of Asia Minor" (n.d., 590-603); "Mosaics of the Coast of Asia Minor, I" (1986, 604-611); "Mosaics of the Coast of Asia Minor, II" (1987, 612-619); "Mosaics in the Archaeological Museum at Istanbul" (1989, 620-643).

Chapter 7, The Hellenistic Paintings of Qusayr 'Amra, includes two articles: "The Hellenistic Paintings of Qusayr 'Amra (Jordan) and their Sources" (1981, 647-686); "The Hellenistic Paintings of Qusayr 'Amra, II" (1983, 687-718).

On pages 719-720 the author provides the bibliographical references for the articles appearing in this collection.

Blázquez is an unusually prolific author of books on many aspects of ancient Roman and early Christian economy, society, and art. Although this collection of articles provides no overview of the Roman mosaics of Spain, it is particularly rich in iconographical interpretations and observations on their transmission throughout the ancient Mediterranean.

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