La Martorana

La Martorana

It is extraordinary to think that the Norman conquerors spread their arms wide and reached two islands so far apart in Europe. In both islands they embraced local skills. The decoration of Mosaics are as much a part of Norman Sicily as Norman England, and the great cathedrals of Cefalu, Monreale and Westminster Abbey are all decorated with these geometric, whirling and endlessly different mosaic patterns. But perhaps the most beautiful expression of this detailed work is in La Martorana church in Palermo.

The floor that endless brides must have walked over seems to spin almost with the endlessly interweaving circles and continues up the marble walls by the Lapis Lazuli alter. When I first visited I was just overwhelmed with the cacophony of mosaic designs and the mixture of 18th century baroque, Roman pillars and the endless streams of visitors. The small squares, triangles and circles of mosaic in reds, greens, blacks, whites and golds was too much and it was only when I reduced the patterns to black and white that I realised I had something I could work with.

I sketched and sketched endless patterns. Struggling to make the patterns work with the constraints of the sizes of the stones I could cut. So too the challenges of how to keep the lightness of the designs and yet strong enough to withstand wear by women of the modern world we live in. The final designs are a masterful combinations of patterns, set with diamonds in the mosaic 'colours' and a distillation of 12th century design for the 21st century! And this is truly not just a convenient juxtaposition of the numbers!!

From 12th century inspiration to late 18th century inspirations for the Il Ventaglio ring. The warmer summer evenings made the use of fans in Palermo commonplace for the women of the day. Il Ventaglio (translates as 'fan') is a diamond encrusted version that sparkles across the rippling folds of white gold. A complete collection of glittering, diamond designs!

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