The old Romans and Greeks, if they had the money, turned their floors into mosaic pictures or designs. Archaeologists are happy to uncover those old floors but unless they are real pictures they no longer impress us much. They remind you of an old bathroom or gym shower-room floor. Nothing special about a geometrical design—a star, a flower, some pattern you make with a compass.
But architects who were real artists sometimes made beautiful or curious designs for their buildings. Here is a Roman mosaic floor from the first century.
Giotto, looking for a good idea for the floor of his Baptistery in Florence (1225), must have seen Roman mosaics like the one above and made his own version.
Along came Michelangelo and tried his hand. This is what he came up with for the floor of the Laurenziana Library (1524).
And this is his ingenious rosette for the pavement of the Capitoline Hill Square, with the statue of Marcus Aurelius in the center (1546). It seems to lift the statue right up in the air and put it on top of a globe.
These photos are taken from Ludwig Goldscheider’s unsurpassable book on Michelangelo by Phaidon Press.