Orpheus at Brading Roman Villa

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Orpheus, Brading Roman villa © David Gill

A mosaic showing Orpheus playing a lyre (with scarlet strings) is located in Room VI of the West Wing at Brading Roman villa. This position served as the main entrance to this part of the villa.

Orpheus is seated on a rock and wears a red Phrygian cap. He is surrounded to his right by an ape and a peacock, and to his left a bird and a fox.

J.M.C. Toynbee (Art in Roman Britain, no. 195) dated this mosaic to the 4th century AD and noted that it is ‘the best-preserved, and in many ways the most attractive, of all the British renderings of Orpheus himself’. Other examples of Orpheus on mosaics from Britain include Barton Farm Villa, outside Cirencester, and Woodchester Villa in Gloucestershire.

Toynbee suggests that heads appeared in the four corners of the mosaic.

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Orpheus, Brading Roman villa © David Gill
  • See also Sarah Scott, ‘Symbols of Power and Nature: The Orpheus Mosaic of Fourth Century Britain and Their Architectural Contexts’ [TRAC]
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