The glass panel from the Surgeon House in Rimini, IIIc AD
The technique by which this artwork has been created requires long time and patient work.
Glassmaking, definitely of Eastern influence, mainly developed after the battle of Actium (31BC) when the Hellenistic States and Egypt were brought under Augustus’s political power with glassmakers coming from the eastern Mediterranean into Italy. Glass was sagged, manipulated and ground rather than poured into molds.
This glass paste panel was hanged on the triclinium wall in the Surgeon’s House (Taberna Medica) in the old city of Arimnium (today’s Rimini). It was imported from the East, where the host, the Surgeon, took his origins. He was in fact a skilled military doctor as testified by the important collection of medical instruments unearthed on the site. Euthyces, that seems to be his name, had been trained in Greece and probably a follower of the Epicurean philosophy.
After being discovered under several layers of rubble and ashes in P.za Ferrari in Rimini city center, in 2007, it was placed in the Archeological section of the City Museum, a former Jesuit College.
Incredibly enough it is thanks to a big Fire destroying the 2 storey building of the Taberna Medica, that the many treasures – furniture, ceramics, lamps, mosaic floors, frescoes, token of a luxurious lifestyle Augustus had brought to Arimnium – were preserved even from the next to come Barbaric invasions.
The panel represents a sea bottom with fishes in brilliant colors, swimming in opposite directions. It was created with different techniques, glass mosaic, marquetry, and opus sectile. In particular, the background blue central disc was taken from a sole cut out plate where to insert the fishes separately built up with the fusion and welding mosaic technique.
You can easily recognize a golden bream, a mackerel and a dolphin represented with particular details like the scales, the open mouth allowing the view of the sharp teeth, the glazing eye.
Fish was quite a usual subject in all the Mediterranean art as testify other similar artworks found in Corinthium, or the mosaic from the Orpheus’ villa in Leptis Magna, Lybia. Not only was it an important subsistence source, but it often took up a sacred connotation.
Exotic Mediterranean golden breams with dates
• 2 medium golden breams
• 1 cup chopped dates
• ¼ cup cooked rice
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• ¼ cup chopped almonds
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 30 g butter, melted
• ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
• ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon caster sugar
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Clean breams, rinse under cold water. Dry with absorbent paper.
2. Combine dates, rice, onion, almonds, coriander and cinnamon in bowl.
3. Spoon seasoning mixture into fish cavities, close opening with metal skewers. Place on oven tray.
4. Brush fish with melted butter, sprinkle with combined pepper, ginger and sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Sprinkle with cinnamon, before serving.