Twisted Ribbon Design and Geometry

The twisted ribbon border is a meandering pattern of what appears to be a flat ribbon waving along across the mosaic in a repeated manner. While there is thought to be no major significance to the pattern itself, it represents “the movement towards ornamental complexity” in the Antioch mosaics, “which was born in the late second century.” The ribbon itself is typically different colors on each side, which are shaded into gradients as it arcs. This paper will focus on the twisted ribbon that transverses sinusoidally, and it identifies some variations of the pattern.

This paper is written for the Antioch Recovery Project, part of the Classics Research Lab at Johns Hopkins University. While I arrive at certain claims through my work, there is no “conclusion” to this topic. This paper serves as a journal surrounding my research into the Twisted Ribbon border pattern. I encourage others to add on or disagree with certain aspects, and perform similar studies to other design elements of the Antioch Mosaics. 

Twisted Ribbon: Mosaic Collection

The Twisted Ribbon Design & Geometry project will focus on describing and analyzing the Twisted Ribbon pattern, one of the more complex geometric features found throughout the Antioch Mosaics. This blog post will provide an overview of the four mosaics with twisted ribbon patterns that the project will analyze. 

Animal Friendships

Dating back to the 5th century, the large Animal Friendship mosaics depicts natural scenes of large animals confronting each other. The mosaic is currently at the Baltimore Museum of Art in four pieces, each displaying different scenes: Lion and Humped Ox; Lioness, Stag and Bear; Leopard and Goat; and Tigress and Boar. The twisted ribbon border traverses sinusoidally straight across the edges of the entire original scene, with an approximately 8 inch amplitude. The image below is the Lion and Humped Ox scene and twisted ribbon, measuring 89 in by 100 in. 

Bird Rinceau Mosaic

Originating from the House of the Bird Rinceau, the Bird Rinceau Mosaic was created between 526-540 CE. The center of the mosaic is patterned with triangular symbols, surrounded by scenes of birds. Between the two main designs lies a twisted ribbon border that steps up, over, and down around three dimensional boxes. Instead of sinusoidal, this ribbon appears to form three quarter circles winding through the mosaic in a repeated fashion. Pieces are currently located in the Baltimore Museum of Art (Maryland), Worcester Art Museum (Massachusetts), Saint Louis Art Museum (Missouri), Princeton University Art Museum (New Jersey), and the Louvre Museum (Paris, France). The images below depict an overall reconstruction of the mosaic and a close up view of the twisted ribbon.

Other Images

Two more mosaics have been found to contain the twisted ribbon pattern that are not as complete or detailed as the two previous image collections discussed. The first is the remaining half mosaic from the House of Ge and the Seasons in the Yakto Complex. Originally from the 5th century, the mosaic currently resides in the Princeton University Art Museum in New Jersey. It depicts a central figure surrounded by four opposing figures, each representing a different season.

Lastly, little information is known about the unnamed mosaic below, currently located at the Hatay Archaeological Museum in Turkey. The Twisted Ribbon pattern appears to travel across the image leading in both directions.