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David Byrd | Washington 30 July 2010
Photo: Courtesy - Saad Romany Mikhaiel
Egyptian mosaic artist Saad Romany Mikhaiel
A New Exhibit at Cairo's Opera House highlights the work of Egyptian Saad Romany Mikhaiel. The 52-year-old uses miniature pieces of glass, stone and other materials to create intricately detailed mosaics that he hopes will inspire both the public and other artists.
Saad Romany Mikhaiel peers through a large magnifying glass in his studio. With the focus and patience of a surgeon, the bearded Egyptian artist delicately places a small piece of stained glass in the face of one of his portraits.
Staring through the magnifying glass, Mikhaiel makes sure that all of the pieces - called tessarae - are exactly where they are supposed to be. The result is a powerful portrait of a bearded man in formal Arabic dress.
After graduating with a degree in fine arts, Mikhaiel worked as a jeweler and interior designer for several years. He used that experience to combine jewelry design and traditional mosaic techniques to create stunning portraits.
His works, called micro mosaics, include portraits of actor Omar Sharif, Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Egyptian Novelist Naguib Mahfouz, American television host Oprah Winfrey, and Cleopatra. Mikhaiel has also done a version of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night.
Mikhaiel has created 39 works for this exhibit. The artist says he hopes his work will inspire others who are interested in mosaics. "I would like to send a message to all people who love this art," he said. "I am offering all of my efforts to build a base for all people who are interested in this art, and for artists who can work in this art field."
Some of the best mosaics in Egypt date to ancient Rome, but the art form was used in the jewelry set of the Pharoah Tutankhamun. Examples from the Byzantine Empire are considered the best of their kind.
The art form reached its height during the Renaissance, when micro-mosaics were created for St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City because traditional altar paintings were decaying from humidity and other environmental factors.
Though he could sell his works - Mikhaiel has not done so, for now. The artist says he doesn't want them hidden from the public.
"As I said before, my main goal is to send out a message," he said. "I don't want any of my works to be bought by a collector and be put in a house or in a palace and disappear as mere possessions.
Fayza Abdel Monem is the general manager of the Opera House museums and Exhibitions. She says she is proud that the first micro-mosaic exhibit in Cairo features an Egyptian artist.
"As an Egyptian, I'm very proud to find an Egyptian artist doing art work like this, working with this integrity and perseverance. I'm very proud of him, and the Opera house is very pleased with this exhibition," she said. "I can see in the visitors' eyes how impressed they are with Saad Romany. I salute him and wish him all the best."
The exhibition is only the first of Mikhaiel's efforts to highlight the art form. He is scheduled to give a lecture on micro mosaics in London in October.
(Inquiries about the artist can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.)