Reviewed October 2016
Anne Danberg, Reference Librarian
Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago

Roman Mosaics in the J. Paul Getty Museum is a freely accessible online catalogue that contains detailed information about all examples of Roman mosaic art in the Getty’s collection. It was published in conjunction with the exhibition that opened in the spring of 2016 at the Getty Villa, Roman Mosaics Across the Empire, in which some of the mosaics were featured.  The Director’s Foreword states: “Arranged geographically by regions of the Roman Empire, the catalogue entries situate each mosaic within a broad stylistic and typological framework and illuminate the context of its discovery.” 

Roman Mosaics 2To this end, the main page is designed to allow the user to choose from several different ways to discover information relating to these mosaics: an interactive map allows the user to navigate directly to the mosaics of a specific geographic region; a section pertaining to the discoveries of the mosaics provides archaeological evidence; and a section about Roman Mosaics Across the Empire allows the user to access information about the related exhibition.  The main page is easy and intuitive to use; at the top of the page the user can perform a text search of the site, click the arrow to move to the next page, or access the table of contents.  All the links on the main page are in a bright blue, making them easy to distinguish. Scrolling down the main page, the images – an enlarged mosaic, a photograph from an archaeological discovery, and a photograph from the accompanying exhibition – are both visually appealing and effective in clearly highlighting additional navigation options.  


The entries themselves are well organized and comprehensive.  In addition to an enlargeable image of the object, the gallery label information (and link to the item in Roman Mosaics 4the Getty’s collection database), and provenance information, additional features provide for an excellent investigation of the object within its historical context.  These features include: the Comparanda, which situates the mosaics within the context of other similar objects; Condition notes; a Bibliography; and an extensive notes section.  Another helpful feature is a scale that indicates the size of the mosaic. One of the intentions in publishing this catalogue, as stated in the Foreword, was to “make immediately available recent scholarly research on the collection.”  Indeed, the hyperlinkedfootnotes and myriad links throughout the entries direct the reader to images, maps, and additional information, make for a dynamic scholarly resource.  One of the strengths of the site in particular is its ability to connect the user to other resources, and to demonstrate the ways in which these resources are interconnected.  A hyperlinked index provides for easy identification of particular topics, and this resource is downloadable in several formats.  In addition to researchers in Roman Art, this resource would be useful for museum visitors and docents with an interest in this topic.


This catalogue is similar in subject matter to the free online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, but differs in scope as the Getty catalogue presents a more focused investigation on fewer objects of a specific material type.  Other catalogues published under the Getty’s Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) present similar in-depth object research in an interactive manner, with some additional functionality in different iterations such as the ability to annotate text.  Another catalogue in the Getty’s web-based catalogues series, Ancient Terracottas from South Italy and Sicily, has a similar template with its streamlined design and interactive maps.  Roman Mosaics in the J. Paul Getty Museum provides a well-rounded examination of mosaics in the Getty’s collection, with a dynamic design that encourages further discovery and scholarship.


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