©1985 Trustees For Harvard University, Dumbarton Oaks

Creation of the heavenly bodies. Standing against a radiant background of gold mosaic glass, the Creator displays a cross-topped scepter as he brings the heavens into being.

Personified as a face with golden locks in a disc emanating rays, the sun shines upon the sphere of the heavens. Three progressively darker shades of blue glass suggest the infinite depth of the firmament. Six-petaled golden stars evenly placed on the surface of the sphere stand out against the dots representing smaller, more distant stars.

Frequently the mosaicists of San Marco used lavish materials and subtle techniques. Here, for example, the artist has cut gold sheets into shapes representing the petal-like “rays” of the larger stars.

This scene illustrates Genesis 1:16, “And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.” (The “lesser light”—the moon—is not shown in the picture.) The Creation of the Heavenly Bodies and 25 other 13th-century mosiac scenes portraying events from the first three chapters of Genesis decorate a cupola in the church of San Marco. Biblical quotations in Latin, such as those at the top and bottom of this Creation episode, separate the pictorial sequence into three concentric strips around the church’s dome.