Looking for a vanished masterpiece

Mosaic of the Seasons, restored
Mosaic of the Seasons, restored Mosaic of the Seasons, restored, with Summer and Autumn © Lugdunum

Being a couple means being one, but which one? Proverb

1863. Mr. Martin-Daussigny, the new Head Curator of the Gallo-Roman museum in Lyon is perplexed. The inventories indicate that the museum has an antique mosaic. It represents a woman crowned with spikes of wheat, a goddess incarnating Summer. But the mosaic is impossible to locate.

The curator begins an inquiry into the whereabouts of the lost work: it will take him no less than five years to find it! The mosaic was hiding on the Lyon peninsula, in the Saint-Martin d'Ainay basilica. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to recover because it has been inlaid in the floor of one of the chapels. And just how did it get there?

After its discovery forty years earlier, the mosaic was badly in need of repair. At the time, the curator entrusted the work to a mosaicist. Quite a mistake! The mosaicist was not someone who could be trusted. He had the nasty habit of "confusing" the works entrusted to him with those he owned. This is how two panels from the museum, the famous woman's head and a geometrical rosette, were sold to the priest at Ainay to decorate the pavement of his church.

Martin-Daussigny was in a difficult position. The museum still had Autumn, a man with clusters of grapes on his head, from this same mosaic, known as "The Four Seasons". It would be a shame not to bring them together.

Fortunately, the parish was willing to cooperate and quickly returned the work.

To express his gratitude, the curator left the geometrical rosette at the basilica, where it can still be admired today. He even provided another geometrical mosaic to replace the head of Summer. Summer joined her companion Autumn, who had been waiting patiently for her at the museum.

By Artips