Year 4 Visual Arts

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Make your own mosaic

mosaic theodora

Letís take an imaginary trip to the beautiful city of Ravenna in Italy to visit the church called San Vitale, where we can see world-famous mosaics. A mosaic is made from thousands of tiny pieces of coloured glass, jewels, stones or precious metals that are fitted together like a puzzle.

Mosaics cover the walls of San Vitale. The mosaic you see here shows the empress Theodora and her court. This mosaic is a good example of Byzantine [buy-ZAN-tine] art. Many great works of art were created when the Byzantine Empire was strongest (from about the year 400 to 1400). Christianity was very important at that time, so much of this art was made for churches. This mosaic honours the Empress Theodora because she and her husband built many new Christian churches.

This mosaic in San Vitale looks as if it is filled with light. Much of the background is made of gold, which catches and reflects the light coming through windows of the church or from candles. Byzantine artists used gold to remind people of heaven. Imagine how it would feel to be in a room full of mosaics shimmering with all the colours of the rainbow!

mosaic theodora close-up

Can you tell which figure is Theodora in the mosaic? She is the tallest figure, carrying a golden cup to one side. What else makes her more noticeable than the others?

If you actually visited San Vitale, you would see that this mosaic is quite large. The figures are almost life-size. Just think how many tiny squares it took to make Theodora!

To make your own mosic, you will need a pencil, a piece of cardboard, glue and construction paper of many colours. Cut the paper into tiny squares. Decide what picture you want your mosaic to show, and draw it on the cardboard. Keep the design simple to start with. One by one, glue the paper squares to the cardboard, fitting them next to one another to make the design inside the outline you have drawn.

This activity is adapted from pages 180-181 of What Your Year 4 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here.

Click below to see a related activity:

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