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p456 Emblema

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp456‑457 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

EMBLEMA (ἔμβλημα, ἔμπαισμα), an inlaid ornament. The art of inlaying (ἡ τέχνη ἐμπαισματική, Ath. XI p488) was employed in producing beautiful works of two descriptions, viz.: — 1st, Those which resembled our marquetry, buhl, and Florentine mosaics; and 2dly, those in which crusts (crustae), exquisitely wrought in relief and of precious metals, such as gold, silver, and amber, were fastened upon the surface of vessels or other p457pieces of furniture. Works of both classes, when in metal, come under the head of Caelatura.

To productions of the former class we may refer all attempts to adorn the walls and floors of houses with the figures of flowers and animals, or with any other devices expressed upon a common ground by the insertion of variously coloured woods or marbles, all of which were polished so as to be brought to a plain surface. To such mosaics Lucilius alludes (ap. Cic. de Orat. III.43), when he compares the well-connected words of a skilful orator to the small pieces (tesserulae) which compose the "emblema vermiculatum" of an ornamental pavement. In the time of Pliny these decorations for the walls of apartments had become very fashionable (H. N. XXXV.1). Respecting emblemata in metal work, see Caelatura and Chrysendeta. It may here be added that Athenaeus, in describing two Corinthian vases (V p199), distinguishes between the emblems in bas‑relief (πρόστυπα) which adorned the body and neck of each vessel, and the figures in high relief (περιφανῆ τετορνευμένα ζῶα) which were placed upon its brim. An artist, whose business it was to make works ornamented with emblems, was called crustarius. (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.12, s. 55; Cic. Verr. IV.23 Martial. VIII.51; Juv. I.76, V.38; Dig. 24 tit. 2 s. 23 § 1;a Heyne, Antiq. Aufs. vol. I p147.)


Thayer's Note:

a So the dictionary article, but I find nothing about our topic anywhere in Dig. 24 (and no s. 23 in tit. 2) although I've left the link in case you should have better luck. I do find emblemata mentioned in Dig. 33 tit. 6 s. 3 § 1.


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Page updated: 28 Sep 12