Art of the Byzantine Era

Art of the Byzantine Era

Art of the Byzantine Era

Art of the Byzantine Era

Excerpt

The art that will be discussed in this volume, though there are numerous variations of style due to epoch or locality, is broadly of a very distinct and basically uniform character. It was firstly essentially a Christian art, dedicated to the service of the Church and to the illustration and expression of that faith, and to a greater or lesser extent, controlled by the rulings of the Church. It was, secondly, an art where a certain degree of abstraction prevails, and where the rhythmical or spiritual basis of a composition was more important than resemblance to Nature. It was nevertheless a figural art and owed a considerable debt to the motifs and ideas that were prevalent at an earlier date in the classical world; indeed the classical heritage was never lost sight of, in spite of the penetration of new and distinct ideas from the East. It was, thirdly, a sophisticated and a complex art, where profound meaning underlay the form, and not a primitive art, depending for its appeal principally on the attraction of colour or intuitive qualities of design. But as it was an art which extended over a very long period of time--the years between about 550 and 1450 are covered in this book, though the styles that are here discussed existed in embryo before and survived till much later--and which was produced over a very extended area in space, there were naturally wide variations not only of style, but also of character.

The finest work, the most elegant, and the most accomplished technically, was, naturally enough, associated with the Byzantine capital, Constantinople, which was the very hub of the civilized world from the foundation of the city as capital around 330 till its conquest by the Turks in 1453. But there were other great centres too. In Rome, Milan, Ravenna, and elsewhere in the West works of the greatest importance that were in no way provincial were executed in the early years of Christendom, though little of quality was produced there that belongs to the period covered by this . . .

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