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'The Mosaic, from the copy to the interpretation'

These book reviews are focused primarily on how they will help in making copies of Roman mosaics.

 the mosaic vedova book cover image

Evelina Della Vedova (2008). The Mosaic...from the copy to the interpretation. Udine, Italy: Litho Stampa. 

This book is presented as the 'Technical manual of the Scuola Mosaicisti del Fruili' This mosaic school in Spilimbergo, Italy has been in existence since 1922 and has a very high reputation in the world on contemporary mosaic art. Ms Vedova has been teaching at the Spilombergo school for the past 23 years, her career in mosaic starting when she enrolled at the school in 1978. 

In his introduction Dr Danilo Venuto says that the aim of the book is to 'introduce the present evolution of both wall mosaic and floor mosaic, and the techniques used to lay it.' He also stresses the importance of the archaeological knowledge that we have in mosaic work. The introduction does seem infer this is not too much a technical manual in use but rather how the knowledge and work of the school can be presented to a wider audience.

It's a very well presented book, the layout, the quality of the photos all recommend it. My one concern with the photos is that some images of ancient mosaics do not make it clear if they are photos of the originals or copies, which one or two appear to be the latter.

There is a good, concise history from origins of mosaic through to the present day. A history of the school is given and then there are sections on tools and materials, again all clearly set out. When the log for the hardie is mentioned though it's said that it needs to be of hornbeam or beech yet does not discuss why.There is a good explanation of the different types of smalti in the materials section.

In the adhesives section there starts to be more technical information given that seems to be strictly necessary considering the audience. It's good that epoxy resins are mentioned but do we need to know they are part of the 'thermosetting family'? Likewise with the section on temporary backings it mentions that Polyethlene belongs to the thermoplastic family and is prepared by the polymerisation of ethylene. They say it is also alkali proof but don't mention why this might be relevant. 

As with any book published as a hard copy it suffers from being written at a certain time so baseboard materials such as cement fibre board and compressed foam board which are rapidly gaining in popularity or mosaic work aren't included but they do have a section of the different types of honeycomb sandwich panels (Cellite etc) which is very good to see as these rarely get a mention elsewhere.

The section I was most interested in was the one on Andamenti. Again very well presented, the drawings were clear and of a good size on the page. The only drawback was, although they mark some examples as right or wrong there is no explanation why. Understanding the principles of this does mean that you can apply them to all your work rather than just to specific instances that you will have seen in the book.

The second part of the andamenti section gives an example of how to draw out a flower, converting it into the andamenti lines for mosaic. This is very useful in learning how to section up an image.

The best part of the book, for me, is definitely the 'Technical phases of mosaic making'. It takes you through the different methods such as Reverse, Direct, Double Reverse etc. It shows both small and large mosaics being done, how they are sectioned up for setting etc. The images are very clear, the only drawback to them taking up so much of the page is that it doesn't leave much room for more explanatory text which might have been useful. 

There is a section on portraits which shows, as in the flower before, how to section out an image of a face and then the corresponding andamento. A good piece to look at if you're contemplating this type of work.

To end with there are some pages on Venetion style floors and a glossary.

Overall a good, clear instruction book on the different types of mosaic methods. I do feel though that more explanation on Andamento would have been very useful as it is not covered in depth that often, if at all. If you want details of the different methods then this will be a good book to have.

Any use if you make copies of ancient Greek or Roman mosaics? Unfortunately I'd have to say no, though this is a book that would compliment any modern mosaic library.