History of Art



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Byzantine Art

    In 323 Emperor Constantine moved the capitol of the Roman Empire to Byzantium.  It was then renamed Constantinople.  The Eastern part of the empire developed differently then the Western.   The Western Empire fell in 400's with an invasion from the northern Germanic Tribes.   The Byzantium Empire (Eastern section) stayed in tact over a thousand years longer, till the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Turks.  Constantinople was renamed by the Turks Istanbul, which is the name it bears to this day.  The art and architecture reflects differences between the Roman Catholic religion which develops in the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox religion which thrived in the East, in the Byzantium Empire. 

    The majority of the art in this period and place were created for the Eastern Orthodox Church.   The Eastern Orthodox preferred a somber reflected tone to worship instead of the large congregational worship of the West.  This focus is also reflected in their art and architecture. The figures in their art appear flat and one dimensional with little use of shadowing to give any life-like appearance.   Figures are almost always from the front with somber and solemn looks coming from starring  eyes.    Faces were long and narrow.  In all, very little attempt was made for realism in the painting and mosaic depictions.  

    The development of the style of Byzantine Art was developed during the Fifth and Sixth centuries.   From that time to the time the of the invasion by the Turks, very little change occured in the style.  "Byzantine art displayed the same constancy: in the fifth and sixth centuries, it developed a formal expression that was manifested in the thousands of works of art that came to be regarded as sacred and immutable" (Marceau, Jo 1997, pg 136)

    During the Eighth and Ninth Centuries, the painting  of people was prohibited by the iconoclasts.  This was started by Emperor Leo III in 726.  He stated that the painting of people was a form of idolatry and that all icons (painting of people) should be destroyed.  This spilt the empire into two sections which became know as the Iconoclastic Crisis.  The painting and mosaics came back again in the Ninth century till the fall of the Empire to the Turks.  

    Sculpture was very limited in the Byzantine Era.  The only sculpture which developed was limited mostly to small ivory book covers.  


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African Art Lesson 1 2 3 4 Cave Art Lesson 1 2 3 4
 Mesopotamia Art Lesson 1 2   Egyptian Art Lesson 1 2 3 4 5
Greek Art Lesson 1 2 3 4 5    Roman Art Lesson 1 2 3
Middle Ages Art 1 2 3 4 5 6   Middle Ages Architecture 1 2 3 4 5