The Conservation of the Orpheus Mosaic at
Edited by Nicholas Stanley Price
In 1988 the GCI and the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus agreed to conserve an important floor mosaic excavated in 1984-1985 in Paphos, Cyprus. The mosaic, which depicts Orpheus and the Beasts together in a single panel, is representative of an iconographic tradition common throughout the Mediterranean Basin. It is unusual, however, in that Orpheus is shown with his arm outstretched, and is further distinguished by an inscription naming the person who commissioned the work, a feature not present in any other Roman mosaic in Cyprus.
Although the mosaic was in generally good condition when excavated, root damage had dislodged much of the tessellatum from its setting- bed and also had created several large lacunae. Subsidence caused by partial support of the mosaic on an underlying wall became more pronounced after excavation, and cracking appeared. For this reason, the mosaic was lifted, provided with a new support, and replaced in situ. The decision was made to lift the tesellatum by rolling it onto a drum rather than by cutting it into smaller sections, respecting the single pictorial composition of the work. The project included training in this relatively unusual technique for conservators from the region.
The Conservation of the Orpheus Mosaic at Paphos, Cyprus, chronicles each element of the project, including the evaluation, documentation, detachment, reinstallation, and cleaning of the mosaic. It includes a clearly illustrated, step-by-step discussion of the procedures used to roll the mosaic and to install its new support system of fiberglass and aluminum. Environmental monitoring, analysis of tesserae samples, and the development and evaluation of a protective shelter are also covered, along with historical and iconographic material on this remarkable mosaic.