An exceptional mosaic dating from Classical times

The mosaic known as “The Three Graces and Bacchus”, which dates from the 5th century and is the property of the city of Manosque, was restored in 2014

It was first discovered in 1859, in a field near Vinon-sur-Verdon. Whilst trenches were being dug to plant trees, a geometrically-patterned mosaic was uncovered. After being reburied, it was dug up again 1881, and then again in 1919. On this last occasion, the site, which belonged at the time to the Joubert family, was excavated more extensively. The entire tiling of a Roman villa was dug up, along with the discovery of the principal feature, the mosaic known as The Three Graces and Bacchus, consisting of three panels, decorated with figures placed above an inscription.

The mosaic of the Three Graces and Bacchus

On the left-hand panel, we see Bacchus, the Roman god of the vine, revelry and wine, leaning on a staff encircled by vine leaves (a thyrsus). Beside him stands Icarius, holding next to him bunches of grapes. According to the myth, Icarius was a poor, uneducated peasant who unknowingly received Bacchus as a guest in his house. The god gave him, in thanks, the first vine. After he had planted the vine and pruned it most carefully to bring it into flower, a billy goat dashed into the vineyard and ate up the most tender leaves. This scene is illustrated in the right-hand panel.

The centre panel shows the Three Graces, daughters of Bacchus and Venus, divinities that represent seduction, beauty and nature. Only the image of one of them is well preserved. She wears a plain sash over her breast and is adorned with jewels.

Below these three scenes, we can read a verse by the Latin poet Martial (1st century) which can be translated into English as: “You who frown and read this with an ill grace, may you, jealous wretch, feel envy for all, and may none envy you.”


The mosaic at Manosque

The tiles of The Three Graces were taken up in 1922 and transported to Manosque, to the “Château de Drouille”. They were placed vertically, against one of the walls of the building, beneath a balcony. In June 1969 the property and the mosaic, which had been designated a historic monument in 15 June 1923, were sold to the city of Manosque.

In 2014, the city of Manosque decided to have the tiling restored, as it had sustained damage from being on display outdoors for almost a century. And so The Three Graces and Bacchus left Manosque to go to the restoration workshops of Saint-Romain-en-Gal where, after a major restoration, it is once again resplendent in its former glory. In April 2015 it was reinstalled in the Council Chambers of the town hall, where it is now on display for all to see.

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