Worcester Art Museum Restores Border Panels to Worcester Hunt, Largest Antioch Floor Mosaic in America

(WORCESTER, MASS., August 31, 2002) - Original border pieces from a sixth-century Roman floor mosaic are being reunited with its large, central panel as part of an 18-month conservation project at the Worcester Art Museum.

The Worcester Hunt mosaic, the largest floor mosaic brought to America, was excavated in the 1930s from a villa in Daphne, a suburb of the ancient Roman city of Antioch, now a part of Antakya, Turkey. For more than six decades, the mosaic has been the centerpiece of the Worcester Art Museum's Renaissance Court. Conservation of the mosaic and its border panels represents the final phase of conservation work associated with the Worcester Art Museum's landmark 2000 exhibition, Antioch: The Lost Ancient City.

Cleaning of the Worcester Hunt began in October 2001, when conservators from the Worcester Art Museum team began stripping away layers of previous restorations, which had dulled and discolored the surface. They have also removed patches of concrete used in the 1930s to fill areas where the original stone tiles, or tesserae, were missing.

In July 2002, with a $40,000 grant from the Florence Gould Foundation, the Museum began its preparations to rejoin the border pieces. Because of space limitations in the Renaissance Court, the border elements could only be placed on two sides of the mosaic. Expected completion of the border installation project is mid-September 2002. Following the installation, conservation work will resume to clean the mosaic and fill and retouch areas lost over time.

“We are excited to be able to experience the Worcester Hunt with its borders attached, for the first time since its discovery in the 1930s,” said Museum Director James A. Welu. “We will really be able to appreciate the interplay between the mosaic and its borders in the Renaissance Court, which provides vantage points from two levels and many different angles.”

At the center of the mosaic stands a hunter, circled by various animals and depictions of hunters on foot and horseback attacking dangerous game-a lion, tiger, bear, and others-with swords, spears, and bows and arrows. Hunting was a favorite activity for the Roman elite and was commonly documented in Antioch and throughout the Roman world. The border images, which face inward toward the center of the mosaic, depict hunters pursuing their prey through a foliage of entwined acanthus leaves.

Five institutions-the Worcester Art Museum, Princeton University, the musée du Louvre, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Harvard University's affiliate Dumbarton Oaks through the sponsorship of the Bliss family -supported the excavation of Antioch, which had been destroyed by a major earthquake in the sixth century. The excavation unearthed an extraordinary collection of floor mosaics, including the monumental Worcester Hunt.

Museum Background

A cultural jewel of New England, the Worcester Art Museum first opened to the public in 1898. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Its extensive four-season studio arts program enrolls 6,000 adult and youth students each year. Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (sponsored by Commerce Bank), and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and full-time college students with current ID, and FREE for Members and all youth 17 and under. Admission is also FREE for everyone on Saturday mornings, 10 a.m.-noon (sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company). The Museum is located at 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, Mass., easily accessible from the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), Route 290 and Route 9. Expanded parking is available near entrances on Salisbury, Lancaster and Tuckerman streets. For more information, call (508) 799-4406.