The Beginnings of Christian Art

The Beginnings of Christian Art

The Beginnings of Christian Art

The Beginnings of Christian Art

Excerpt

Short time ago a very stimulating collection of essays was published under the title History in a Changing World, and in the first of them the author, Geoffrey Barraclough, laid stress on the necessity of reviewing our historical focus in order to cope with the new and wider horizon which world affairs have come to embrace. The old view, which was confined almost entirely to western Europe, provides, he suggests, a quite inadequate background, for to-day Russia, the Near East, the Islamic world and the Far East are just as much a part of the world in which we live as, say, Italy or Germany.

In the sphere of art, research in recent years has similarly enlarged our horizon, for it has disclosed on the one hand the immensity of the debt that the art of the Renaissance and of later times in the West owes to what went before, and on the other the importance, from a general point of view, of what was happening elsewhere, in regions which were in the past not taken into very much account.

This book has been written with that situation in mind. It deals with periods and subjects which are not generally familiar, and it aims at providing a background against which subsequent developments of Christian art can be properly studied. For that same reason particular attention is paid to the Byzantine world and to the role of Constantinople, for developments there were not only of the first importance but also continued without interruption from the early fourth to the fifteenth century, whereas elsewhere there was no such continuous achievement.

Another point is that of approach. The book is mainly about painting and mosaics, but the habit of treating the history of art as primarily the history of painting is not really a very commendable one. To be complete, the story of the art of any particular cultural phase should be concerned with every aspect, with sculpture as well as with painting, with the small . . .

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