Mosaic with a Peacock and Flowers

Date: 3rd–4th century

Geography: Made in probably North Africa

Culture: Roman or Byzantine

Medium: Tesserae mounted in metal frame

Dimensions: Overall: 19 5/16 x 22 11/16 x 1 3/16 in. (49 x 57.7 x 3 cm)

Classification: Mosaics

Credit Line: Gift of Kirkor Minassian, 1926

Accession Number: 26.68


This mosaic, probably part of a much larger floor mosaic, shows a peacock among flowers. The peacock was a popular subject for Roman and Byzantine artists, often used to represent paradise, renewal, and spring. Byzantines might have thought the peacock an appropriate symbol for the season, because its elaborate feathers grew each spring. Associating the peacock with heavenly paradise was an extension of the Byzantine vision of earthly paradise—many wealthy citizens were known to have kept peacocks to roam about the flowers and trees of their gardens.