Taking inspiration from the old mosaic masters of Ravenna

For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to objects that sparkle and shine, and following a short introduction to mosaic making course about 10 years ago I became totally obsessed with mosaics.

Ravenna gold and blue mosaic detail

Combine my obsession of mosaics and my love of Italy (and Italian art in particular) and you get the magic mosaic wonderland of Ravenna, Italy.

The small town of Ravenna on the north east coat of Italy is home to some of the most amazing and well preserved mosaics in the world. It’s here that one of the worlds most famous mosaics can be found ‘The Small Doves Drinking’.

Ravenna pigeons mosaic postcard

Everywhere that you go in Ravenna you see this image, on postcards, souvenirs and reproduction mosaics etc. It seems to symbolise the very essence of the town. However the ‘Doves’ mosaic is a very small section of a much larger mosaic that adorns the ceiling of the Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum, it can be seen here just left of centre above the left hand arch.

Ravenna pigeons ceiling
Ravenna ceiling mosaic

The small old town area has various sites where you can view some of the worlds most incredibly beautiful and well preserved mosaics. 

It was for me an emotional experience to see vast walls and ceilings filled with gold tiles and mosaics with the most exquisitely intricate designs. 

Particular highlights for me where:

  • The Neonian Baptistery
  • Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum
  • Basilica di S. Vitale
  • S. Appollinare Nouve
Jesus dove christening Ravenna

The Neonian Baptistery – Christening of Jesus

The Magi Mosaic Ravenna

S. Appollinare Nouve – The Magi

Ravenna di s vitale Mosaic ceiling

Basilica di S. Vitale

Ravenna ceiling mosaic

Galla Placidia’s Mausoleum – Vaulted ceiling detail

Ravenna deer mosaic
Ravenna ceiling mosaic
Ravenna ceiling mosaic
Ravenna deer mosaic
Mosaic Shop Ravenna

The fabulous little studio shops that sell mosaic materials were out of this world amazing, I was like a kid in a sweet shop. All sorts of gorgeous glass, milliflori, mirrored glass, textures and colours, I can only describe it as being inside a kalidescope. 

I decided to have a go at replicating the infamous ‘The Small Doves Drinking Mosaic’. Lots of other mosaic makers had done it and it seemed a right of passage. 

The mosaic technique in Ravenna is very different to the way I work. I cut tiles and create shapes and stick them onto a board and then grout the finished mosaic. The Ravenna way is to cut smalti glass and push it directly into the a cement, no grouting. Two very different ways of working producing very results.

Ravenna doves mosaic copy

First attempt…Not very successful attempt as the technique used doesn’t really allow for the tiny pieces of tile to be cut small enough to give the desired effect. However it was a good project for practicing graduating colour.

Ravenna doves inspired mosaic

Second attempt… I have over the years developed my own mosaic style and I decided to recreate the famous mosaic in this style with the sparkles edging and the various textures in the water. The doves created with the tiles cut to give contouring and shape. 

So this is my version of the famous Ravenna Doves,  paying homage to the great mosaic masters of old Ravenna who inspired me to create this piece of work.

Ravenna pigeons mosaic postcard
Ravenna doves mosaic copy
Ravenna doves inspired mosaic

If you would like to see more of my work then take a look in the mosaic section in my  Galleries Mosaic Art