Definition of tessera in English:



  • 1A small block of stone, tile, glass, or other material used in the construction of a mosaic.

    ‘Roman remains including tesserae have been found’
    • ‘Mosaics can be made from any of a number of materials, from the traditional tessera and glass, to mundane materials such as stones and beads, to the unexpected bottle caps, nuts and bolts, and industrial cast-offs.’
    • ‘Next, we painted the surface with white gesso, which was used to reflect the colors of the glass tesserae (small pieces of mosaic glass) back into the room.’
    • ‘The McKeans must have been prescient about the future of conservation techniques, for they picked up everything that looked like Tiffany, from column capitals to mosaic tesserae.’
    • ‘In these altar mosaics, iridescent Favrile glass, Tiffany's trademark in other work, was rejected in favor of opalescent Favrile glass and Byzantine style tesserae made with gold leaf.’
    • ‘We can create our own tiles, or tesserae (one of the most beautiful words in art)!’
    • ‘Her work obviously brings to mind the grids of Agnes Martin, as well as the linear networks of Terry Winters and even the painted tesserae of Shirley Goldfarb - though without the density of facture found in works by Winters and Goldfarb.’
    • ‘This shows itself in the way the format of the picture determines the size and number of the tesserae, or in the way the size of the tesserae determines their number and the format of the picture.’
    • ‘Glass was preferred because of its light-catching properties; the effect of glass tesserae in a mosaic is to create brilliance and richness through the changing effect of the refraction of light.’
    • ‘On the other hand, the largest tesserae and the least elegant craftsmanship of the face of Medusa indicate a lesser figural skill.’
    • ‘The thinly painted, diaphanous rectangles, which achieve greater density of color where they overlap, function as simulacra of brushmarks or as tesserae in a mosaic.’
    • ‘The small geometric components are as tangible as tesserae.’
    • ‘In Giardini di Pogo and Conversazione Telefonica con Ulan Bator, choppy black elements, like the residue of axes, anchor irregular tesserae of strong color.’
    • ‘Another was Giacomo Rafaelli, who specialized in so-called micromosaics, which were made up of minute tesserae.’
    • ‘But all of a sudden the brightly colored tessera of Edward Burn-Jones's Christ in Glory came to swirling life, and the heat of spring turning into summer more dramatic than oppressive.’
    • ‘The town is famous for its Norman Cathedral, one of the wonders of the medieval world, glittering with the gold tesserae of a thousand mosaics.’
    • ‘Even the smallest tesserae (fitted together by the Franz Mayer company in Munich) catch light and differentially bounce it off or cast shadows with their irregular thicknesses.’
    • ‘History is selective, give us instead the whole mosaic, the tesserae, that we may judge if a period indeed has a pattern and is not merely a handful of coloured stones in the dust.’
    • ‘In the making of mosaic, the patterning of the tesserae precedes any subject motif.’
    • ‘Taylor Tiles sells Bisazza's range, including its individual 20 mm x 20 mm, handmade glass tesserae, where gold leaf is sandwiched between two layers of Venetian glass.’
    • ‘This is the central figural medallion, or emblema, of a geometrically patterned floor, executed in minute tesserae of subtly graduated tones, that depicts a dog seated next to an overturned golden vessel.’
    1. 1.1 (in ancient Greece and Rome) a small tablet of wood or bone used as a token.
      • ‘Every corn-receiver was therefore now provided with a tessera, and this tessera, when once granted to him, became his property.’
      • ‘For centuries historians believed the tesserae had been worn by gladiators on a chain or cord around their necks.’
      • ‘The tessera was recovered from the Ninfeo of Punta Epitaffio during the underwater excavation in the sea in front of Baia, which nowadays is a little town near Naples.’


Mid 17th century: via Latin from Greek, neuter of tesseres, variant of tessares ‘four’.