EARLY CHRISTIAN OR BYZANTINE ART
Art during the Middle Ages was different based on the location in Europe as well as the period of time. However, in general, Middle Age art can be divided up into three main periods and styles: Byzantine Art, Romanesque Art, and Gothic Art. Much of the art in Europe during the Middle Ages was religious art with Catholic subjects and themes. The different types of art included painting, sculpture, metal work, engraving, stained glass windows, and manuscripts.
The end of the Middle Ages is often signaled by a great change in art with the start of the Renaissance Period
The start of the Middle Ages is often called the Dark Ages. This is the period of time from 500 to 1000 AD. The main form of art during that time was Byzantine art produced by artists from the Eastern Roman Empire, also called Byzantium.
Byzantine art was characterized by its lack of realism. The artists did not try to make their paintings realistic, but focused on the symbolism of their art. Paintings were flat with no shadows and the subjects were generally very serious and somber. The subjects of the paintings were almost entirely religious with many paintings being of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
Key info - study of specific art pieces
11. Hagia Sophia – Anthemius of Tralles 537 A.D.
Title: Hagia Sophia
Architect: Anthemius of Tralles
Date: 532-537 A.D.
Style/Period: Early Christian/Byzantine
Materials: Stone, Brick, Stained Glass
Early Christian Churches were called Basilicas. Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox Catholic basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. It remained the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. The churches had to hold huge amounts of people.
The entrances were always from the west with the altar at the east. This is because Constantine moved the seat of the faith to eastern Europe. Separate smaller structures called Baptisteries were built around the altar. A bell tower was used to watch for attack. This church has a central dome plan. The dome is set on top of four pendentives (triangular segments of a sphere) at the corners. These bear most of the weight and allow for the stained glass windows. Brick was used in the construction of this church. The doors are said to be made with wood from the Ark.
The interior is decorated with rich mosaics and pillars. The church had beautiful mosaics (pictures created by placing small pieces of gold, marble, stone and glass into concrete).
Constantine believed that his improbable victory over Maxentius was the result of the help of the Christian god. As a result, during Constantine's reign persecution of Christians ended and Christianity became the official religion in the Roman Empire. He also moved the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople in 325 AD (before known as Byzantium, now Istanbul).
KEY ELEMENTS & PRINCIPLES
Colour (rich reflections of coloured light)
Texture (in mosaics)
12. Empress Theodora and her Attendants – 547 A.D.
Title: The Empress Theodora and her Attendants
Date: 547 A.D.
Theodora was Empress of the Byzantine Empire and the wife of Emperor Justinian I. She was one of the most influential and powerful of the Byzantine Empresses.
Mosaics are created by setting tiles of glass and marble into concrete at different angles so that they reflect light onto each other. The message of this work is that even the Empress attends Church and pays homage to God in order to gain salvation. Therefore, everyone should do so. Since most people were illiterate, the pictures helped to teach the masses. This work is very stiff and with no sense of movement. The faces stare from large oval eyes. The figures are elongated and flat. The overlapping is not realistic and there is no perspective. This mosaic of Theodora is located in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy.
KEY ELEMENTS & PRINCIPLES
- Watch the video below to get a better understanding:
- Take a ten question quiz about this page.