Marvelous Menagerie: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel at the Legion of Honor
SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- First unearthed in 1996 in a rescue excavation in Lod, ancient Diospolis, Israel, a large and extraordinarily detailed floor mosaic was recently lifted from its site and conserved. Found in a large villa believed to belong to a wealthy Roman, the exquisitely preserved floor dates to about AD 300. This glorious mosaic is in the United States for a limited time before it returns to Israel to become the focus of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. The Legion of Honor is one of only four museums to display this treasure before its final and permanent installation in Lod.
Exhibition curator Renée Dreyfus says, “Other Roman mosaics have been found in Israel, but this one is exceptional in its lively imagery and its excellent state of preservation. We are thrilled to be able to display such an amazing work of art in our museum and think about what a great city Lod must have been in Roman times. Each excavated work in the Holy Land reveals so much about the history and people who lived in this remarkable land.”
Located in Gallery 1 from April 23 to July 24, 2011, the Roman mosaic from Lod was designed as two rectangular end panels flanking a large square medallion. The medallion and one of the end panels contain delightful depictions of a menagerie of common animals and exotic beasts. The other rectangular panel portrays a fabulous marine scene filled with a profusion of fish, dolphins, shells and two Roman merchant ships. The absence of human figures, typical in the work of the time, makes this mosaic particularly unusual. Measuring approximately 300 square feet, the splendid work of art commands almost the entire footprint in Gallery 1, but visitors will be able to walk on three sides for ample viewing.
Gallery 2 serves as a preface to the exhibition with works from the permanent antiquities collections, including a Roman marble sarcophagus, glass vessels and two mosaic panels. There are also coins of the era with images of animals and ships borrowed from the San Francisco Ancient Numismatic Society. A short film and interactive workstation are also located in Gallery 2 for additional context and orientation.