Imperial Rome   :|:   Document

Fishing scenes in the semicircular atrium in the Villa del Casale

ref. : en.1754.2018 | 14 November 2018 | by Francis Leveque
mosaïque | Middle of IVe century AD
Sicile ( Italie )
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Transitional place between a long corridor and a small luxurious room, this semicircular atrium is a jewel of architecture and decoration. The sea fishing accompanies the footsteps of the visitors under the sound of a fountain where the water should flow.

The mosaic comes from the Villa del Casale located near the town of Piazza Armerina, south of Sicily. The construction of this villa began at the end of the third century AD. It has about thirty rooms decorated with 3500 m² of mosaics. Her decors include the famous women in bikinis. Other mosaics show animal transport ships and other fishing scenes, notably in the semicircular atrium. This theme is very present in the villa. Most mosaics date from the mid-4th century.

The atrium

In the center of the atrium a small fountain decorates the place. A portico of 4 columns separates it from an ambulatory where the ground consists of mosaics.

The semicircular atrium is an architectural originality. It is leaned against the ambulacre, this 66m long corridor whose floor of mosaics contains a large animal transport vessel.
It allows access to the room of Arion, greek poet and musician of the seventh century BC, which was perhaps the official hall of the master’s apartment. It measures 8x7m, and the mosaic is well preserved. It covers the entire soil and presents a mythological theme: happiness in harmony with nature.
The mosaic field (the central part) represents a marine procession. In the center, we see Arion, a rich sheet folded on the left shoulder, sitting on the back of a dolphin and playing the lyre. Around it, the sea is populated by all kinds of inhabitants: fishes, sea monsters, centaurs, Tritons and Nereids adorned with jewels, sea urchins, shells, octopuses, and a large number of Eros. The apse, almost lacunary, was occupied by a large head of Ocean.

Fishing scene

There are 6 representations of fishing boats around the atrium. They all have an identical profile with a vertical bow above a sharp taillemer, surmounted by a wrong-stolos ended by a volute. The curved stern rises quite high and ends with a button.
The decor of the sides is always different from one boat to another. They are treated for a decorative purpose. However, there are two superposed horizontal registers.
On board two or three Eros fish by line or net in a sea where the fish is abundant.

In the background, along the outer perimeter of the semicircle, the shore is lined with a number of porticoes with pavilions.

These mosaics have many aspects similar to those found in Africa. They may have been made by artists from that province.


Bibliography :

  • B. Pace, I mosaici di Piazza Armerina, G. Casini, Rome , 1955
  • A. Carandini, A. Ricci, M. De Vos, Filosofiana. La Villa del Casale di Piazza Armerina. Immagine di un aristocratico romano al tempo di Costantino, S.F. Faccovio, Palerme , 1982
  • R. J. A. Wilson, Piazza Armerina, Granada Verlag, Londres , 1983
  • P. C. Baum-vom Felde, Die geometrischen Mosaiken der Villa bei Piazza Armerina, Amburgo , 2003
  • B. Steger, Recherches sur l’iconographie des mosaïques de Piazza Armernai (thèse), Atelier national de reproduction des thèses, Lille , 2006