Mosaics in Miami

It can be tempting to think of Roman History as something confined to the ‘Old World’. Of course, geographically the Roman World was in Europe, Africa and Asia. It’s in these places you will find the remains of their civilization, for example the UNESCO World Heritage Site of The Limes, upon which the Wachtzeit project is based. However, the influence of classical civilizations including Rome, has spread across the world for centuries after their falls, and their presence continues, even today. 

Look at Washington DC, the capital city of the United States of America, it is filled with architecture directly based on classical structures. For example, Union Station boasts a wealth of Roman inspired features including the arch on its main facade which was modelled on the Arch of Constantine.

The interior of the station, with its massive, vaulted spaces was inspired by spaces such as the Baths of Diocletian

This influence of classical styles was not limited to the architecture of public buildings in the capital city, in fact one of the best examples is found in what was once a private home, belonging to, and renovated by fashion designer Gianni Versace. 

Vadelmavene, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Villa Casa Casuarina in Miami, often known as the Versace Mansion, is a Mediterranean Revival style house, purchased by Versace in 1992. He was famously assassinated on the building’s steps in 1997.

The property is now a luxury hotel and, thanks to the preservation of many of Versace’s personal renovations, boasts some of the most spectacular classical inspired decorative features in the United States.

The most famous feature is the ‚Million Mosaic Pool‘ – a fabulous demonstration of the opulence for which the Versace brand is known. The logo of the fashion brand, the famous Medusa head, has a prominent place in a floor mosaic on the approach to the pool. This mosaic was made in Versace’s hometown of Calabria, Italy before being shipped to Miami in pieces and reassembled. Versace said the Medusa figure was based on an image on the floor of the ruins he and his siblings played in as children. 

Vadelmavene, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Greco-Roman imagery did not only influence Versace’s building décor, it could also be seen on the catwalk. Gianni’s obsession with the ancient world has continues to influence Versace output today, under the stewardship of his sister Donatella. Intelligent use of classical imagery helped to establish Versace as a timeless brand, directly connected to the mysterious glamour of the ancient world.  In the 1980s and 1990s Gianni acted as a link between the gods of the ancient world and the new gods of his time – celebrities. From Elton John to Princess Diana, stars and royalty flocked to wear Versace, and to be with Versace, many spending time in the fantastic rooms of his mansion. 

You never left him without being stimulated about some aspect of fashion or art or life.

Elton John

Versace was not alone in bringing the architectural and design inspiration from the classical world to 20th Century America. The Getty Villa in Malibu is another fine example of new-world preservation and interpretation of Ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture. Perhaps the most impressive feature is an exact replica of a shell and mosaic fountain from Pompeii.

Scotwriter21, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The UCLA/Getty Master’s Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation is based here, along with many original artefacts. It should be noted this is not without controversy. As with many museums today, there are accusations of looting, and calls from both the Greek and Italian governments for repatriation of objects. The Getty Museum recently agreed to return a number of objects to Italy.

Of course the inspiration of the classical world is not exclusive to the wealthiest people. Search any home and garden retailer and you will find mass produced statues of Venus and co widely ranging in quality and cost.. Having these statues in our gardens is about more than adding a feature, there is a reason you’d choose it over, say, a gnome. Looking at a classical style sculpture has the power to connect us to a long-gone period of our human history. Thanks to the legacy of its art, architecture and mythology, the classical period continues to inspire artists, musicians, designers, poets and gardeners the world over, you may be surprised just how far away from the ‚Old-World‘ you can encounter the Ancient Greeks and Romans.

Have you been inspired by the classical world in your home or work? We’d love you to comment…

About this post

This post was produced by Adam Ditchburn. Adam is a freelance writer and cultural facilitator. He is currently curator of Wachtzeit Online. Find him on social media @adamandthemuses

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