I may have mentioned before that I collect Annunciations. Not in quite the same way some people collect items – say, salt-and-pepper shakers (and believe me, I have seen some truly heinous collections.) Most of the Annunciations I love are safely locked up in the world's great art galleries, or in spectacular complexes such as the church and convent of Florence's San Marco.
Instead, I collect the images and the memories of these works. There is just something about the composition, and perhaps the hopefulness, the anticipation, that surrounds the moment when Angel Gabriel appears before a startled Mary.
I mention this because I've also begun to collect mosaics: again, not anything that I can keep (although I did buy some beautiful small pieces in Ravenna two years ago.) My memory collection is very informal but it's growing.
And I'll be adding to it when I'm in Italy in June.
I have been utterly awe-struck by some of the spectacular works I have seen in Italy. Obviously, Ravenna is a remarkable centre for Byzantine mosaics. And San Marco in Venice is stunning. You can be sure I'll be back there in June to gaze in wonder at these priceless images.
But I'll begin my mosaic hunt in Rome at my neighbourhoodd basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore (conveniently located just around the corner and up an extraordinarily steep hill from my apartment.) It is chock-a-block with fabulous mosaics that I'm excited about seeing.
Take, for example, the apse mosaic pictured at the top. The website Sacred Destinations suggest this depiction of the Coronation of the Virgin, is from the late 13th century and was created by a Franciscan friar, Jacopo Torriti.
The second mosaic, just above, is taken from a panel in the nave and reportedly dates back to the 5th century. I mean, boil me dry!* Such history is really extraordinary to think about.
The basilica itself was founded in the 4th century and is one of the five great, ancient basilicas of Rome. It is apparently filled with a variety of Byzantine mosaics – including one depicting the Annunciation.
*Boil me dry is my new favourite exclamation from the fictional girl sleuth Flavia de Luce. Isn't that a brilliant name!