Geometric, Encaustic and Mosaic Pavements

Geometric: A floor or pavement (an area of heavy footfall, eg hallway or church nave) made up of a repeated design using tile tesserae of different shapes and colours.

Encaustic: Many Medieval floor tiles are encaustic and with the Gothic Revival spear-headed by Pugin, they once more attained immense popularity in the 19th. Century.

These especially hard-wearing tiles have a central motif stamped into the body of the tile, the recess then infilled with liquid clay, or ‘slip’, of a different colour to the body. The tile would then be dried prior to lead glazing, then ‘fired’.

It is this firing process, the ‘burning’, which explains the term ‘encaustic’ for such tiles.

Encaustics, with their glowing colours were traditionally highly popular for use as vivid patterned pavements in Royal Palaces, churches, abbeys, The Palace of Westminster, and the homes of the prosperous. By the Victorian era, grandiose public buildings and equally grand edifices to prospering commerce were added to those also using encaustics in their floor designs

Mosaic: most usually floor decoration, but also a popular wall embellishment, particularly externally.

Composed of small tesserae of differently coloured marble, stone, ceramics, glass fixed in mortar and arranged to form a geometric or figurative design.

The Romans were the masters of mosaic and  have left a rich legacy throughout the Empire. However, modern mosaics, particularly from the 1940s-60s, through to the present day are still very much in evidence on public buildings, for example schools and Town Halls.

Tesserae: Strictly speaking this term refers to mosaic but is also applied to the components of a tessellated pavement comprised of individual, plain coloured tiles laid to form a geometric pattern (see Geometric above). Thus tessellated.