Heide Zech is Senior Curator of the Rosalinde and Gilbert Collection at the V&A. Here she looks at the history of the women criminals who made the mosaic floors that cover the V&A, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, amongst others. She uses 19th century reports and descriptions of the methods used so that other floors may also be identified to be what is known as ‘Opus Criminale’ to get a clearer idea of how much work was made in this way. This article provides a detailed summary of the mosaic techniques taught to the women, the materials they used and the formula used to decide how long it would take to make a floor (and presumably to make sure that the women were working hard enough). It provides a new angle in the discussion of Mosaic in Britiain in the late 19th Century.
Zech, H. 2015. A Useful Occupation. Andamento Volume 9, 2015 British Association for Modern Mosaic ISSN 1752-5578