Introducing Israel: The Mona Lisa of Galilee
Undeniably the most famous mosaic unearthed in Zippori is the Mona Lisa of Galilee. Zippori (Sepphoris) was deemed to be the Byzantine capital and the heart of the Galilee province in Israel. It was also the Roman capital under the name of Sepphori and a major Jewish town in the Byzantine times. When the crusaders came, Zippori was rebuilt and a church was erected in honor of the Virgin Mary who was born here according to tradition to Zippori natives Joachim and Ana. Not only it was a political center, but also a historical and the artistic center of the province.
The Mona Lisa of Galilee was nicely added to a mosaic depicting scenes from the Greek Mythology. The main subject was the Greek God Dionysus in so many scenes depicting his love for wine, revelry and drunkenness. And in this massive floor of mosaics, a little face of a woman, beautiful and delicate woman to be exact was depicted in one of the scenes which definitely changed the whole course of this archaeological find.
Questions arose as to the identity of this woman. Definitely not related to the life of Dionysus nor to any scenes of the Greek Mythology. A postulate by one group about the lady owner of the house was greatly considered. Another realm of thought suggested the beloved woman of the artist. To add a little twist to this teeny weeny gossip was the idea of an unrequited love between this beautiful lady and the mosaic artist. Definitely this portrait of a woman, lovingly etched and assembled in such perfection earned the title of of being the Mona Lisa of the Galilee.
Now you’ll be asking why the Mona Lisa of the Galilee? The mosaic artist, using 4-5mm of colored stones was able to capture the captivating beauty in so many ways; creating shadows and movement, flushing the cheeks and little sheen on the woman lips. And the most admirable part of this mosaic is that wherever you stand and look at the woman’s beautiful face, her loving eyes would never leave your gaze. Like the Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci in Louvre, this beautiful woman, be it the most beautiful woman at that time, was trapped in time in little pieces of stones, beautifully sketched on the floor that would surely enthrall even the most discerning artists of our time.
There are a lot of famous and important mosaics that were excavated here in Zipppori. Being an important Jewish center at that time, a mosaic floor depicting scenes of the Jewish life was found in almost perfect condition. Another important set of famous mosaic floors was found in a different location described as the Nile House. Inside, a floor in good condition was found highlighting the flooding of the River Nile. Indeed, Zippori is a repository of art especially for the mosaic lovers out there. Here, one could deduce the high quality of these mosaics, both in its artistic and workmanship value. And that year was 3rd Century AD!