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Friday, May 18, 2012

Mona Lisa of the Galilee - Tzippori

One of the most exquisite and well-preserved mosaics in the country is to be found inside a building referred to as the Roman villa in the Tzippori National Park. Perched high up on the acropolis, this luxurious home was clearly the residence of one of Tzippori's more important citizens, perhaps the local governor.


"Mona Lisa" (photo: Fabienne Attal)
 
The centerpiece of the home is a large guestroom with 'triclinium', or a three-sided, U-shaped Roman banquet area. The mosaic floor, comprising tiles of twenty-eight different colors, is designed around these three tables so that no panels are obscured.

The southern portrait depicts a captivating woman adorned with earrings and a laurel garland. Her gaze is riveting; in fact, it appears she looks directly at you from every corner of the room. This woman has been dubbed "the Mona Lisa of the Galilee", not because she resembles DaVinci's subject but rather because she seems to have the same quality of timelessness and of superb artistry. She even has the same faint hint of a smile.

Much speculation has been made as to the identity of this mysterious beauty. Who was she? The first possibility that comes to mind is the lady of the house. Perhaps this woman was a legendary beauty of her time whose face was renown throughout the land?  Maybe she once graced this villa with her presence and the owner chose to memorialize her visit to him in the room he entertained all his guests.

Perhaps the mosaic artist created a monument to a great love of his life whose radiant beauty would be admired by all who gazed upon her, but whose identity would remain hidden.

Tzippori National Park is situated near Nazareth and is well worth a stop on your next visit to the Galilee.