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Orsoni Smalti

Venetian Mosaics: A Metaphor for the Dialog Between the Whole and its Parts


The tradition of Venetian mosaics show us an aspect that is not always noticed in such artistic works.

The history of ornaments is probably one of the most fascinating chapters of the aesthetic that, as a culture, we have incorporated into our daily lives. Beauty has been encoded into an architectural detail, in the form of a domestic utensil, in the design of furniture or the harmonious and surprising combination of that and other elements, with the sole purpose making our stay in a place more pleasant so that our gaze suddenly finds a detail that provokes admiration, pleasure and delight.

One of these minimal but aesthetically notable elements are Venetian mosaics whose origin dates back to the Middle Ages and that little by little have acquired a familiar air that has made them part of an identifiable style. During much of its history, Venice was a point of encounter for many different cultures, from Europe, North Africa and the Near East, with all of the corresponding chronological variations that, in some ways, ended up reflected in this practice.


Orsoni’s color library
Orsoni’s color library

In the case of the mosaics, one of the most important qualities for artists and artisans that work with them is the palette and the precision of the colors they are made up of. In Venice there have been masters of the technique that knew how to produce the shade they sought. One of them, Angelo Orsoni, gave his name to one of the most respected Venetian mosaic traditions so far: Orsoni became world famous when he presented his work in the 1889 Universal Exhibition, in which the Eiffel Tower was also presented, and in which Orsoni caused a surprise with his panel of simple appearance that showed, in vertical strips, the spectrum of colors that could be achieved in his mosaic workshop. That chromatic show surprised visitors with the elegance with which they were presented, and from then on Orsoni himself was considered an artist and his mosaics were taken as the raw material for creative works.

As with other kinds of mosaics, using small blocks, Venetian mosaics are also used to give form to figures of greater size and complexity. An eloquent metaphor of how a whole and all its parts create a dialectic relationship in which one does not make sense without the other: mosaics can be beautiful in their own right, but their raison d’être is achieved in the wholeness of a larger work, although that could not exist if it were not for each one of those small elements that comprise it.


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