Michelangelo’s Ingenious Rosette

The old Romans and Greeks, if they had the money, turned their floors into mosaic pictures or designs. Archaeologists are happy to uncover those old floors but unless they are real pictures they no longer impress us much. They remind you of an old bathroom or gym shower-room floor. Nothing special about a geometrical design—a star, a flower, some pattern you make with a compass.

But architects who were real artists sometimes made beautiful or curious designs for their buildings. Here is a Roman mosaic floor from the first century.

Giotto, looking for a good idea for the floor of his Baptistery in Florence (1225), must have seen Roman mosaics like the one above and made his own version.

Along came Michelangelo and tried his hand. This is what he came up with for the floor of the Laurenziana Library (1524).

And this is his ingenious rosette for the pavement of the Capitoline Hill Square, with the statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center (1546). It seems to lift the statue right up in the air and put it on top of a globe.

These photos are taken from Ludwig Goldscheider’s unsurpassable book on Michelangelo by Phaidon Press.


This entry was posted in architecture, art, art history, Giotto, great artists, history, Michelangelo, Renaissance, sculpture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Michelangelo’s Ingenious Rosette

  1. erikatakacs – Canada – I am a figurative sculptor working in paper pulp.
    erikatakacs says:

    As a design, my favourite is the Roman one. In real life, another one might look better. Wish I could check them all out. :)

  2. kimiam says:

    Beautiful. They make me a bit dizzy with movement in them.

    First image gives the illusion of depth. I am afraid I might fall in if I venture too close to the center.

    The capiltoline hill design ..I do see the globe you mention, but for me what stands out more is it has the effect of footlights that go off as your eye progresses down the center, illuminating the relationship of the central figure to everything in it’s wake. He pulls off the illusion the horse is cantering through the square.

  3. Aryul says:

    So in other words, Michelangelo was also a graphic designer!

  4. anagasto – madrid, spain
    cantueso says:

    Yes, Kimiam, I would rather not have them on my kitchen floor, especially if it is true what the swallows say, that “it seems to lift the statue right up in the air”. Depending on the day’s menu, that would not be helpful, for I would then try to walk on the edges.

  5. wrjones
    wrjones says:

    Design of buildings for beauty seems to have gone the route of the passenger pigeon. No one has the time or money for such grand stuctures anymore.

  6. iondanu – I am a visual artist of Romanian origin (a draughtsman, painter, photographer and digital artist) living now in Canada.
    iondanu says:

    It seems that Vasarely and his op-art didn’t invented that much…

    And Michelangelo’s roseta also reminds me the oriental lotus representations… at leas from a distance…

  7. Mary Mimouna – First, I want to let everyone know I can be reached at elementaryteacheroverseas@gmail.com. Three years after I came to Morocco, an overseas private American School opened in my city. While my training was for Secondary History and Social Studies, all that was available in the beginning was Kinderdergarten, which I taught for three years. I subsequently taught Grade 3 for an additional ten years. Now I run a home business, Expert Elementary Tutor. Soon I will be giving speeches to teachers at various cities in Morocco, and hope to be teaching in a new English-language foreign universtiy which is soon opening in my city. Before taking this blog public, I carefully searched through and checked my posts to make sure that all are appropriate for a public blog. When I started this blog, I felt the need to blog under a pen name. I chose "Eileen," a name I've always liked since I was a child. Now that I'm no longer with the school, I feel it's time to blog under my own name, Mary Mimouna. However, all of the past posts on this blog, written by "Eileen" were actually written by me. I started this education blog to share several things with readers. First, I wanted to share what is going on in the minds of eight- and nine-year-old third-graders both in the Middle East, and pretty much universally in every country. Second, I wanted to share my philosophies of education and my ideas/decisions as an educator, which I made on a daily basis. Third, I wanted to introduce readers to differences and problems teachers in overseas American schools face, which are often different problems from schools located in America. Sometimes these problems are universal, while others are not. Last, I wanted to introduce American readers to some cultural differences which teachers face, teaching in American schools overseas. I have been teaching throughout three decades, and continuously for a decade and a half. My educational philosophy has always been that the “class work” is only half of what a teacher should do. The other half is to teach students how to be caring human beings with enough self-confidence to succeed in life. With every classroom dispute between classmates, with every homework assignment or test grade, and with every classroom experience comes a special chance to teach something “more.” In teaching elementary students, I always felt I had one of the most important jobs in the world–-that of “molding little people” to become the next adult generation. Even though I am no longer in an American school, I am continuing to tutor and teach. I still have much to share on education, and am continuing this blog as my readers urged me to do. Personally, I am married to a local Moroccan man, having met him on a vacation to this country. My husband has a managerial office job. Together we have a teenage daughter who speaks three languages. --English, Arabic, and French. As time allows, I plan to post at least one entry per week, and possibly more. My hope is that my readers will learn something useful from my blog, and I would love to have reader feedback through comments. Sincerely, Mary Mimouna (aka "Eileen") Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas
    elementaryteacher says:

    It was interesting seeing these varied pictures and examples.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas

  8. 100swallows says:

    Bill: Here in Spain the rich still compete with their chalets. You see the wildest things. Of course utility wins over beauty. And splendor is the real priority–unlike, I suppose, in America.

  9. manofroma – Rome, Italy – Nato a Roma il 1-11-1948
    Man of Roma says:

    My favourite is also the Roman one (of course lol) and I agree that apparently optical art didn’t invent much.

    Dizziness etc. might be due to vision overwhelmed by information, which also misleads our brain into creating wrong assumptions, like the globe mentioned by 100swallows, or James Fraser’s famous spiral, both represented by our brain but actually non existing.

    There is a school here in Rome (Liceo Cavour) who did an interesting research on math formulas underlying Michelangelo’s rosetta, in connection with the Deutches Museum of Munich. Unfortunately math is not my forte.

  10. beto cabrera says:

    Hi! I think Giotto was not the designer of Florence’s Baptisery (second image from the top). Can anyone confirm me this please?

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