Opus sectile

Opus sectile

Opus sectile refers to an art technique popularized in Rome where materials were cut and inlaid into walls and floors to make a picture or pattern. Common materials were marble, mother of pearl, and glass. The materials were cut to thin places, polished, and then cut further according to the design. Unlike mosaic techniques, where the placement uniformly-sized pieces forms a design, opus sectile pieces are much larger and can form large parts of the design.


Although early examples have been found from Egypt and Asia Minor, the most prominent artifacts remain from 4th century Rome. A large set from the basilica of Roman consul Junius Bassus survived, depicting an elaborate chariot and other things. The popularity of opus sectile designed continued in Rome through the 6th century, and affected areas as far as Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey).

Later uses

Although the technique died down in Rome, it continued to be used prominently in Byzantine churches, primarily in floor designs. From Byzantium it was eventually brought it back to Italy and Sicily in the 12th century.

See also


  • James, Liz "Opus sectile". Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press, Retrieved on 2006-07-14.


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