Sosus of Pergamon

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Mosaic showing doves drinking from a bowl, from Hadrian's villa, 2nd century AD, probably a copy of Sosus's work

Sosus of Pergamon was a Greek mosaic artist of the second century BC. He is the only mosaic artist whose name was recorded in literature.[1]

After the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Greeks of major centers such as Pergamon and Alexandria displayed their wealth in decorations that included mosaics.[2] Pliny the Elder names Sosus as the artist who created the "Unswept House" mosaic. This depicts the floor of a room covered with the remains of a feast, including fish, fruit and other fragments of food.[1] Pliny also says Sosus's mosaic work included an image of a dove drinking, and that the water reflected the shadow of the dove's head.[2] The image, meant to be mounted on a wall, was said to be so realistic that real doves flew into it while trying to reach their stone companions.[3]

A mosaic from Hadrian's Villa, now in the Capitoline Museums, depicts a group of doves on a round bowl.[2] As described by Pliny, one dove is drinking while the others are sunning themselves.[1] The Doves of Pliny, or the Capitoline Doves depicts the doves artistically but realistically.[4] The mosaic is made only of cubes of colored marble, without any colored glass as in other mosaics.[1] It was discovered in 1737 during excavations at Hadrian's Villa led by Cardinal Giuseppe Alessandro Furietti, who thought it was the mosaic that Pliny had described, although other scholars think it is a copy of the original that was made for Hadrian. The Hadrian's villa mosaic has in turn been copied many times in many formats.[4]

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