Fragment of a Floor Mosaic with a Personification of Ktisis

Date: 500–550, with modern restoration

Culture: Byzantine

Medium: Marble and glass

Dimensions: 59 1/2 x 78 5/8 x 1 in. (151.1 x 199.7 x 2.5 cm)

Classification: Mosaics

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund and Fletcher Fund, 1998; Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Dodge Fund, and Rogers Fund, 1999

Accession Number: 1998.69; 1999.99


The bust of a richly bejeweled woman stares from this fragment of a floor mosaic that was once part of a large public building. The partially restored Greek inscription near her head identifies her as Ktisis, the personification of the act of generous donation or foundation. To emphasize her role as donor, she holds the measuring tool for the Roman foot. On her right a man extends a cornucopia toward her as if offering a gift; the Greek word for "good" is near his head. Originally a similar figure probably appeared to her left, and an inscription by his head would have completed the legend "Good wishes."

The classical tradition of personifying abstract ideals continued during the Christian era in many places around the Mediterranean basin, including Antioch (modern Antakya, Turkey), Cyprus, and North Africa. The carefully arranged and sized marble and glass tesserae forming this floor fragment are typical of the exceptional mosaics created throughout the Byzantine world in the 500s.

The Museum acquired the two figures independently. They were restored in accordance with an old photograph of the mosaic in a dealer's storeroom, showing the figures in their original arrangement before being separated for sale.