Sunday, November 19, 2006
Landscape mosaics of the Omayad Mosque
In The Road to Oxiana (1937) Robert Byron visits the Omayad Mosque in Damascus. 'Originally, its bareness was clothed in a glitter of mosaics. Some remain: the first landscapes of the European tradition. For all their Pompeian picturesqueness, their colonnaded palaces and crag-bound castles, they are real landscapes, more than mere decoration, concerned inside formal limits with the identity of a tree or the energy of a stream. They must have been done by Greeks, and they foreshadow, properly enough, El Greco's landscapes of Toledo. Even now, as the sun catches a fragment on the outside wall, one can imagine the first splendour of green and gold, when the whole court shone with those magic scenes conceived by Arab fiction to recompense the parched eternities of the desert.'