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Floor Mosaic with Hunting Scenes

Early Byzantine
late 5th century - early 6th century
200 cm x 485 cm (78 3/4 in. x 190 15/16 in.)

On view


Additional Images
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Additional Image Detail of center
Detail of center
Additional Image Detail, boar
Detail, boar
Additional Image Detail, gazelle
Detail, gazelle
Additional Image Detail, proper right - tiger hunt
Detail, proper right - tiger hunt
Additional Image Detail, tiger
Detail, tiger
Additional Image full view
full view

The hunt mosaic was uncovered in a villa on Mount Staurin, overlooking Antioch to the northeast. Probably because of earthquakes in the sixth century, the villa had beendisplaced to the side of the mountain, most of it in ruins when discovered and only a few traces of its mosaic pavement intact. This hunt scene and a border with two rows of parrots were the major parts of what remained.

In the center of the mosaic is a partially preserved figure, probably Artemis standing on a dead lion, surrounded by a series of hunting vignettes. One of these scenes shows a hunter in face-to-face combat with a tigress as she jumps to defend herself and two cubs; the hunter bends his legs to reinforce the thrust of his spear, aimed directly into the tigress’s chest. With Artemis as protective deity over the hunt, the hunter will be victorious while the tigress and cubs will become trophies of this contest.

The animals and hunters, although seen among flowers and rocks, are like cutout figures, flat and silhouetted against a white background. The landscape details merely fill in the empty spaces around the figures, seemingly at random. This is very different from the mosaic of Apollo (see p. 30), where the range of colors and the shading of the figure create a sense of atmosphere and space. The distribution of figures in the hunt mosaic is known as the carpet style, marking the end of the classical conception of figural images on floor mosaics—conceived as a three-dimensional picture—and the transition to the late antique and medieval approach—where the picture elements are displayed as flat figures on a spaceless background viewable from multiple points of view. The concept of human skill and fortitude, the Roman ideal of virtus, has, however, remained the same.

- S. Zwirn

Antioch-on-the-Orontes, Publications of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity (Princeton, 1938), 177, no. 112, pl. 51, sections 1-3.

The Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection of Harvard University, Handbook of the Collection (Washington, D.C., 1946), 102, no. 186, fig. p. 106.

D. Levi, Antioch Mosaic Pavements, Publications of the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity 4 (Princeton, 1947), 358ff., pl. 85d, 86a, fig. 148.

The Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Harvard University (Washington, D.C., 1955), 146-147, no. 288.

"Reawakening at Dumbarton Oaks: The Golden Glories of the Byzantine and Early Christian Worlds," Art News 45.10.1 (1946): 15-19; 57-59, esp. 17, fig. p. 58.

G. M. A. Richter, Catalogue of Greek and Roman Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Dumbarton Oaks Catalogues (Cambridge, 1956), 62-63, no. 44, pl. 25B.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 103, no. 350.

S. D. Campbell, The Mosaics of Antioch, Subsidia Mediaevalia 15 (Toronto, 1988), 70, no. 4.A.31, fig. 196-200.

A. Canilho, "A Gazelle Mosaic: An Inhabited Scroll in Missouri," Muse 31-32 (1997-98), esp. 77, fig. 9.

F. Cimok and H. Müzesi, Antioch Mosaics, A Corpus (Istanbul, 2000), 12, 292.

G. Bühl, ed., Dumbarton Oaks: The Collections (Washington, D.C., 2008), 64, pl. p. 65.

Acquisition History
Excavated at Antioch, Syria, 1937-1939, (b39-M131; From a villa on the slope of Mt. Staurin, near the river Parmenius, Kharab area, 18Q; acquired with its border of parrots, BZ.1938.74b);

Acquired by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss from the Committee for the Excavation of Antioch and its Vicinity, Princeton University Department of Art and Archaeology, in return for their support of the excavations, 1938;

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC, 1938-November 1940;

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.