Prone to Wander

MOO-SAIC’s “Ravenna Star”

You may have guessed by now that each of MOO-SAIC’s spots will have a theme. While all of the designs require adaptation so that they will work as part of a cow, some of them will be inspired by and reference a particular style of mosaic art or artist that I love, while others will contain a new design that I’ve come up with on my own.

The most difficult spot we’ve completed to date is the “Ravenna Star”. Here’s the finished product – of course, keep in mind that it will look slightly differently once grouted.

Exterior - Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna

So where did the inspiration for this particular spot come from? In Ravenna Italy is a tiny unassuming building – the Masusoleum of Galla Placidia – that contains some of the oldest most beautiful mosaics in the world. Completed in around 450 AD, the site is now considered a UNESCO world heritage site, and according to the UNESCO experts, “it is the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect”. The mausoleum itself was commissioned by a woman named Galla Placidia, daughter of a Roman Emperor and a well-known patron of the arts in the 5th century.

The ceiling of the Mausoleum is literally covered in glittering stars. Josh and I took a side trip to Ravenna last Christmas when we were in Italy and were stunned. The Mausoleum is only one of a handful of UNESCO world heritage mosaics in Ravenna – it’s a jewel of a town in every way, and well worth a visit. If you’re interested in Ravenna, here’s a another blog post I wrote earlier this year about our trip.


Our star is made entirely from smalti, which is traditional Italian colored glass that is broken into chunky glass blocks and used for things like mosaics. The material itself is really fun to work with. It’s substantial, heavy, chunky, and saturated with color – it’s like working with the mosaic equivalent of a box of crayon colors. However, because the pieces are all so small, it does require an investment of time. It’s also not quite as cheap, like the ceramic tiles we’re using elsewhere. However, smalti was the right choice for this particular spot in order to be true to the mosaic that inspired it.

Another interesting fact about this design is that it also has it’s own soundtrack. It is rumored that while on a visit to Ravenna in the 1920’s, Cole Porter gazed up at the glittering stars in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia and was inspired to write the smash hit song “Night and Day.”

Here’s Fred Astaire singing it for us on a restored track. You know, I knew he could dance, but I don’t think I realized that ole Fred could sing quite like this – wow.

As I applied the star onto MOO-SAIC, I was also struck by the thought that the “Ravenna Star” – partly because of the story, location, and even the music behind it – would make a great tattoo. But don’t worry, mom – I’m much too sensible for that. I’ll put it on a cow’s shoulder instead.

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