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Jim Krilich
Frances Iacoboni
Owners/Artists
Dameron, MD
301 904-2448

 

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ALEXANDER MOSAIC
By Colonel James Krilich, USA Retired

The Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii is a Roman copy of an earlier Hellenistic painting/s mentioned in ancient sources.

Now residing in the Museo Nazionale, Naples, Italy. Dated from the late 2nd century. B.C.

The dimensions of the mosaic are: 12 feet x 19 feet = 228 square feet = 25.5 square yards

The mosaic is constructed with over one and a half million tesserae, none larger than 4 mm.. It is made of four colors : white, yellow, red, and black. The minuteness of the small pieces of marble enables incredibly fine detail and a greater variation in colors.

The mosaic represents the turning-point at the Battle of the Issus River in November 333 B.C. when Darius III fled the battle; but Philoxenus, the artist from whose painting the mosaic was copied, may have incorporated elements from other battles. Alexander's personal moment of peril seems borrowed from the battles of Granicus and Gaugamela.

The mosaic focuses on the two Kings. On the left, Alexander, with his head uncovered, rushes forward on his white horse Bucephalus, skewering a Persian cavalrymen with his lance. With Alexander appear his helmeted Macedonian soldiers, although little remains of them due to damage of the left side of the mosaic.

In contrast, Darius on the right, wearing an upright Persian cap, is fleeing in a chariot drawn by four black horses. Around him, his Persian guards mill in confusion but one, his sword raised, moves to attack Alexander.

There are many details which emphasize the terror and confusion of the battle. The horse of the Persian defender of Darius collapses beneath him while he writhes in agony on Alexander's lance. Below Darius in his chariot, a Persian soldier, staring in horror at this scene, attempts to hold a rearing horse. To the right, a soldier is being crushed under the wheels of Darius' chariot. His face is reflected in the shield which he holds. Further to the right appear the terrified horses of the chariot team, trampling another unfortunate Persian.

In the background, a dead tree is used as an artistic device to symbolize the death of both the Persian defenders and as well as the death of the Persian Empire. Its bare and twisted branches emphasize the confusion of the battle at this point. Alexander, risking his own safety has led his cavalry against Darius himself, the outcome of the battle now rests on the outcome of individual combats.

In the foreground, the discarded weapons, rocks and the hindquarters of a horse help to give a sense of depth to the scene.

The Alexander mosaic is thought to be based on a painting which Philoxenus of Eretria created for King Cassander of Macedonia. The painting is described by Pliny the Elder as representing "the battle of Alexander with Darius." Certain inconsistencies in the mosaic point to its derivation from another source. In the center of the composition appears a helmeted head to the right of the rearing horse. Two lance shafts come from the left and abruptly stop behind this head. To the right of the same head appears a head of a horse and beneath this are the hindquarters of another horse, neither of which is logically completed. Among the four horses of Darius' chariot there are parts of a white horse which do not fit together anatomically. Above these horses is a Persian soldier who appears to have two right hands, one on his head and the other raised in the air. These details provide evidence that the mosaic artists misunderstood details of the origin.

www.krilichmosaics.com photos of its design and construction of a sample section of the Alexander Mosaic. The medallion has a radius of 3.84 feet or diameter of 7.68 = 46 square feet or 5 square yards.

This medallion will serve as a initial effort to begin design, and construction of the full Alexander Mosaic 12 feet by 19 feet.

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