A brief treatment of Byzantine art follows.
Introduction[ edit ] Icon of the enthroned Virgin and Child with saints and angels, 6th century, Saint Catherine's MonasterySinai Byzantine art originated and evolved from the Christianized Greek culture of the Eastern Roman Empire; content from both Christianity and classical Greek mythology were artistically expressed through Hellenistic modes of style and iconography.
The basis of Byzantine art is a fundamental artistic attitude held by the Byzantine Greeks who, like their ancient Greek predecessors, "were never satisfied with a play of forms alone, but stimulated by an innate rationalism, endowed forms with life by associating them with a meaningful content.
Byzantine art classical art was marked by the attempt to create representations that mimicked reality as closely as possible, Byzantine art seems to have abandoned this attempt in favor of a more symbolic approach. The Ethiopian Saint Arethas depicted in traditional Byzantine style 10th century The nature and causes of this transformation, which largely took place during late antiquityhave been a subject of scholarly debate for centuries.
Although this point of view has been occasionally revived, most notably by Bernard Berenson modern scholars tend to take a more positive view of the Byzantine aesthetic.
Alois Riegl and Josef Strzygowskiwriting in the early 20th century, were above all responsible for the revaluation of late antique art. Notable recent contributions to the Byzantine art include those of Ernst Kitzinger who traced a "dialectic" between "abstract" and Byzantine art tendencies in late antiquity, and John Onians who saw an "increase in visual response" in late antiquity, through which a viewer "could look at something which was in twentieth-century terms purely abstract and find it representational.
As Cyril Mango has observed, "our own appreciation of Byzantine art stems largely from the fact that this art is not naturalistic; yet the Byzantines themselves, judging by their extant statements, regarded it as being highly naturalistic and as being directly in the tradition of PhidiasApellesand Zeuxis.
The subject matter of monumental Byzantine art was primarily religious and imperial: These preoccupations are partly a result of the pious and autocratic nature of Byzantine society, and partly a result of its economic structure: Religious art was not, however, limited to the monumental decoration of church interiors.
One of the most important genres of Byzantine art was the iconan image of Christ, the Virgin, or a saint, used as an object of veneration in Orthodox churches and private homes alike.
Icons were more religious than aesthetic in nature: The most commonly illustrated texts were religious, both scripture itself particularly the Psalms and devotional or theological texts such as the Ladder of Divine Ascent of John Climacus or the homilies of Gregory of Nazianzus.
Secular texts were also illuminated: The Byzantines inherited the Early Christian distrust of monumental sculpture in religious art, and produced only reliefsof which very few survivals are anything like life-size, in sharp contrast to the medieval art of the West, where monumental sculpture revived from Carolingian art onwards.
Small ivories were also mostly in relief. The so-called "minor arts" were very important in Byzantine art and luxury items, including ivories carved in relief as formal presentation Consular diptychs or caskets such as the Veroli caskethardstone carvingsenamelsglassjewelry, metalwork, and figured silks were produced in large quantities throughout the Byzantine era.
Many of these were religious in nature, although a large number of objects with secular or non-representational decoration were produced: Byzantine ceramics were relatively crude, as pottery was never used at the tables of the rich, who ate off Byzantine silver.
Interior of the Rotunda of St. GeorgeThessalonikiwith remnants of the mosaics Byzantine art and architecture is divided into four periods by convention: The term post-Byzantine is then used for later years, whereas "Neo-Byzantine" is used for art and architecture from the 19th century onwards, when the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire prompted a renewed appreciation of Byzantium by artists and historians alike.
Early Byzantine art[ edit ] Leaf from an ivory diptych of Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindusconsul in Constantinople, First, the Edict of Milanissued by the emperors Constantine I and Licinius inallowed for public Christian worship, and led to the development of a monumental, Christian art.
Second, the dedication of Constantinople in created a great new artistic centre for the eastern half of the Empire, and a specifically Christian one. Other artistic traditions flourished in rival cities such as AlexandriaAntiochand Romebut it was not until all of these cities had fallen - the first two to the Arabs and Rome to the Goths - that Constantinople established its supremacy.
Constantine devoted great effort to the decoration of Constantinople, adorning its public spaces with ancient statuary,  and building a forum dominated by a porphyry column that carried a statue of himself. The most important surviving monument of this period is the obelisk and base erected by Theodosius in the Hippodrome  which, with the large silver dish called the Missorium of Theodosius Irepresents the classic examples of what is sometimes called the "Theodosian Renaissance".
The earliest surviving church in Constantinople is the Basilica of St. John at the Stoudios Monastery, built in the fifth century. Due to subsequent rebuilding and destruction, relatively few Constantinopolitan monuments of this early period survive.
However, the development of monumental early Byzantine art can still be traced through surviving structures in other cities. Classical authors, including Virgil represented by the Vergilius Vaticanus  and the Vergilius Romanus  and Homer represented by the Ambrosian Iliadwere illustrated with narrative paintings.
Illuminated biblical manuscripts of this period survive only in fragments: Archangel ivory of the early 6th century from Constantinople Significant changes in Byzantine art coincided with the reign of Justinian I — Justinian devoted much of his reign to reconquering Italy, North Africa and Spain.
He also laid the foundations of the imperial absolutism of the Byzantine state, codifying its laws and imposing his religious views on all his subjects by law.Read and learn for free about the following article: A beginner's guide to Byzantine Art. The Art Institute’s Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art showcases the origins and early development of Western art from the dawn of the third millennium BC to the time of the great Byzantine .
The style that characterized Byzantine art was almost entirely concerned with religious expression; specifically with the translation of church theology into artistic terms.
Byzantine Architecture and painting (little sculpture was produced during the Byzantine era) remained uniform and anonymous.
Art during the final centuries of the Byzantine Empire is known as Late Byzantine art and the styles and conventions of the Early and Middle Byzantine periods begin to change to reflect emerging dynamics and tastes.
In the portable arts, devotional works of art, including icons for private devotion, continued to be made, albeit in more economical materials, with the lesser metals replacing gold, silver, and fine cloisonné enamel once popular in Middle Byzantine art. Byzantine art was highly prestigious and sought-after in Western Europe, where it maintained a continuous influence on medieval art until near the end of the period.
This was especially so in Italy, where Byzantine styles persisted in modified form through the 12th century, and became formative influences on Italian Renaissance art.