The Leadenhall Street Mosaic
Roman Britain, 1st or 2nd century AD
Found in Leadenhall Street, London (1803)
Bacchus on a tiger
This mosaic is of earlier date than most surviving mosaics from Roman-Britain. It features Bacchus, riding on a tiger rather than the more usual spotted leopard, referring to the myth that the god visited India.
Appropriately enough, the mosaic was discovered during building work on the premises of the East India Company. The design of the floor was recorded, and it was lifted in sections. During the nineteenth century, the owners allowed the fragments to be stored in the open air, and their condition deteriorated. Three sections, including the central roundel, were subsequently restored, and though the tesserae are in their correct positions according to the early engravings, the present smooth, polished surface represents Victorian conservation rather than the original Roman appearance. The surviving pieces were eventually transferred to The British Museum in 1880.