opus vermiculatum---taken from the latin word 'worm.'  It refers to lines of tesserae that snake around a feature in the mosaic. Often 2-3 rows of opus vermiculatum appear like a halo around something in a mosaic picture, helping it stand out from the background.

Some techniques used in mosaic design, showing different ways of laying out mosaic tiles.

opus vermiculatum

Opus vermiculatum - definition in the mosaic glossary

Marine Life Mosaic from House VIII Pompeii demonstrating the vermiculatum technique Roman 2nd century BCE (6) by mharrsch, via Flickr

Marine Life Mosaic from House VIII Pompeii demonstrating the vermiculatum technique Roman century BCE

200-100 BCE Alexandria Egypt. Floor Mosaic Roundel: A Dog & An Overturned Gold Vessel. The quality is fantastic, and this period represents a high point in the mosaic craft in the Greco-Roman world. Many of the tesserae are only 1-2mm across, which allows the mosaicist to achieve a painterly effect. The technique is called "opus vermiculatum", or ‘wormy work’. The Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria. I can't help but wonder if this wasn't the inspiration for RCA Victor's "His Master's Voice".

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Mosaic Floor Depicting A Dog & An Overturned Gold Vessel -- Circa BCE -- Width: Approximately 70 cm -- Discovered in 1993 during construction of the new Alexandria Library, Egypt -- Currently @ The Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria.

EUROPA ON THE BULL / ROM. MOSAIC / C1 AD. Mythology / Europa. Roman, 1st half of 1st century AD. Mosaic after a painting by Antiphilos (?) – “Europa on the Bull”.  (Zeus in the form of a bull abducts Europa, her father Agenor above). Opus vermiculatum, 85 × 84.5cm. Found: Praeneste.

EUROPA ON THE BULL / ROM. MOSAIC / C1 AD. Mythology / Europa. Roman, 1st half of 1st century AD. Mosaic after a painting by Antiphilos (?) – “Europa on the Bull”. (Zeus in the form of a bull abducts Europa, her father Agenor above). Opus vermiculatum, 85 × 84.5cm. Found: Praeneste.

Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome | Opus vermiculatum is a method of laying mosaic tesserae to emphasise an outline around a subject. This can be of one or more rows and may also provide background contrast, eg as a shadow, sometimes with Opus tessellatum. The outline created is often light and offset by a dark background for greater contrast. The name opus vermiculatum literally means "worm-like work", and has been described as one of the most demanding and elaborate forms of mosaic work.

Central panel of a floor mosaic with a a striped cat attacking a bird on top and two ducks on the bottom - "Opus vermiculatum", Roman artwork of the late Republican era, first quarter of the century BC - Rome's Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, Italy

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Opus vermiculatum - definition in the mosaic glossary

Definitions and explanations of terms to do with mosaics and mosaic making

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