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Laura Barber

Artistic styles have shifted and evolved often throughout the history of art, and the art of the Byzantine Empire is no exception. Virgin and Child With Saints And Angels Icon, for instance, displays the Virgin Mary’s face and body in a rather realistic manner (perhaps because she sits in the middle of the piece), but the figures behind her and the “rest of the space is flattened in accordance with Byzantine spacial ambiguity.’ Figures during this time period often had golden circles painted around their heads to indicate holiness, and were portrayed with thin, relatively undefined bodies. This shift away from realism makes Byzantine art easy to define as a unique period in history.
Constantine became the first Christian Roman Emperor in 312 AD, shortly before the beginning of the Byzantine Empire in 330 AD. The emperors during this period also held rather expansive goals. Justinian sought to conquer large areas of lost territory. These large changes during the time period likely made religion an important part of life for both the elite and the common classes.