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    • #5781
      jlchamberlain
      Keymaster

      Artists of the Byzantine Empire had priorities that differed greatly from Greco-Roman traditions. Realism, for example, was no longer of paramount importance. Discuss the shift in stylistic and thematic conventions found in Byzantine art and how it relates to the changing social and political climate of Eurasia.

       

    • #7371
      Maggie May
      Participant

      The shift from realism to a style which focused more on content and message demonstrates a shift in what was viewed as societally and politically important in Eurasia during this time. During this time, several large spiritual systems, such as early Christianity, Islam, and Judiasm, became large and significant forces both socially, culturally, and politically. Art, especially iconography, was used to communicate the importance of spiritual systems and themes rather than the realistic imagery of Greco-Roman times. I think this is a key social and political shift in understanding the history.

    • #7389
      elkingkade
      Participant

      As new religions, especially Christianity, grew in popularity you can see a shift in how those in positions of social and political power demonstrate this in Byzantine art. For example, a the Church of San Vitale Christ is depicted in what is described as the “imperial purple” robe and in a panel just below this Emperor Justinian is also depicted in this same “imperial purple”. Additionally, they are both flanked by people on both sides and this similarity could emphasize the importance or power of Emperor Justinian while trying to avoid breaking the second commandment.

    • #7403
      Lucas Warthen
      Participant

      The art of the Byzantine Empire seemed to devolve (but not in a bad way, only in an aging way). The style is similar to that of the Egyptians in that there are 2D static characters rather than realistic and 3D ones. There is a decline in statues too, so we see much less posing – such as the contrapasso. Most of the art is present in murals or in architecture or a mixture of both. There are no depictions of polytheism (like in Jewish and Christian art) but I think they are inspired by older periods to have a variety of people represented in the art, hence the use of Saints, Mary, and The Son.

      • #7430
        ckocsis
        Participant

        Lucas- I was looking around for statues from the Byzantine era online, and it was hard to find them! I wonder why there are less statues. They could have made less realistic statues, and I wonder why they didn’t!

      • #7441
        Miranda Johansson
        Participant

        Lucas – I noticed this too! I find it very interesting that realism is not “as important” anymore during this period. Out of curiosity, I did Google “Byzantine statues” and I found mainly carved murals or altar panels, which it seems like these were more popular during this time anyways. If we look at them, they are very similar to the paintings that we have seen from this period as well, not at all close to realism, very stagnant and still.
        Virgin Hodegetria, Triptych, Ivory Icon, Byzantine 10th Century

      • #7591
        Gabe
        Participant

        Hey Lucas – I also noticed the similarity that Byzantine art had to Ancient Egyptian art. I think it’s interesting that the Ancient Greek stuff came from this tradition, then sort of went on it’s own kick into realism and lifey-ness through the Greek and Roman periods, then kind returned to the old style in Byzantine art. Looking farther ahead the cycle continues with the Renaissance, the onto modern art – sort of a pulsing of these different emphasis. Pretty weird!

    • #7409
      Lucas Warthen
      Participant

      Hey elkingkade,

      I completely forgot about the ‘imperial purple’ robes that Emperor Justinian donned in his depiction. The robe Christ is wearing is also the ‘imperial purple’ that you pointed out, which, as the description details, ‘harkens back to the Roman Emperors.’ I think it is also important to note that Christ wears the same garb as Emperor Justinian which puts them on similar levels – not necessarily saying they are of the same significance but that they have the same power.

    • #7413
      Kaitlyn
      Participant

      As Lucas already stated, I too think the Byzantine art seemed to devolve somehow. to me it seems that art is not about the skill of the artist, or ask focused on little details as we have seen in previous art, but is more geared towards getting the message across. This art is being used as a means to tell a story, the stories in the scriptures, or of the saints or martyrs. I think the culture was less focused on evolving their art, and moe focused as strictly using art as a communication device.

      • #7418
        Laura Barber
        Participant

        Re: Kaitlyn
        You make a great point about art during this time being used as a communication device, rather than art for art’s sake. The increased importance placed on religion during this time period certainly turned art into a sort of conversion device/way to express to the general public the power and grandeur of religion in their culture.

    • #7417
      Laura Barber
      Participant

      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.

    • #7425
      Aalieyah Creach
      Participant

      As realism died down in this time frame we saw that the style in which the art was created changed as well. The Byzantine used art as a way to depict their many beliefs and tell the story of for example the imperial purple robes at the Church of San Vitale Christ. Which later appeared onto God I think if I am recalling that correctly. Art was used by these people to tell the stories of higher beings it seems in order to make it easier to understand.

      • #7442
        Miranda Johansson
        Participant

        Aalieyah – I completely agree with you that there must have been more focus on the message of paintings and art rather than the visual presentation of them. Maybe they strayed away from realism, because it just wasn’t the art that was important, it was the purpose of communicating the stories of these individuals that was the main point.

    • #7429
      ckocsis
      Participant

      As others have said, I think the art of the Byzantine era became less realistic because the point of the art was to convey messages, emotions, and stories rather than be a perfect image representing a part of a story people already knew. Christianity was still relatively young, so I think people were using art to tell stories, opposed to the Romans who were just depicting parts of stories that everyone already knew because they were so old.

    • #7431
      Valene
      Participant

      Early Byzantine art changed from the art of the Romans in that it is interested in depicting things of mystery like heaven. The Greco-Roman interest was in depth and naturalism. Middle Byzantine period focused on building churches and decorating their interiors. There were also some noteworthy changes in the arts. There was the influence of the empire spread into the Slavic world with the Russian adoption of Orthodox Christianity in the tenth century and Byzantine art was consequently given new life in the Slavic areas.

      • #7450
        Miranda Jackovich
        Participant

        To Valene
        Your example of how the Slavic culture influenced the Byzantine art was great. Do you think the difference between Greco-Roman and Byzantine art was due to factors of how they perceived the relationship between God(s) and humanity? The Greeks believed that their gods had human qualities and traits vs how Christianity views God as heavenly and good.

        • #7495
          Valene
          Participant

          Good question Miranda, I do think the Greco-Roman and the Christians viewed “God(s)” differently. Their ideas of how a God acted or how humanlike they were influenced everything about the stories and scriptures of their Gods.

    • #7434
      Tamara Toy
      Participant

      Given my beliefs on organized religion, this may sound a bit crass but it’s not meant that way. I feel that the reason that Byzantine art seems to devolve is that in earlier periods, art was used to depict life. It needed a sense of realism to make it believable and relatable. The Gods were shown in to be more human-like to help people believe in their existence and their importance in daily life. Byzantine art, however, moved away from realism as the Bible became more important as a religious text. To show images described in the Bible in a realistic manner would devalue their importance in a spiritual and religious context. The young and budding Christianity needed the images to feel surreal and above the average human being. This was needed to elevate the Bible’s importance as well as this new religion. Another aspect of this is that the early believers needed to set Christianity apart from the earlier periods, with their Pagan Gods.

      • #7475
        rdnelson4
        Participant

        Tamara,
        This is actually a really great point! It would make sense that putting God and significant characters from the Bible on the same “level” as followers would sort of “devalue” them in some way. I think you are probably right that the slide from realism in religious art occurred because they didn’t want people to see them as human or mundane in some way. Great point!

      • #7496
        Valene
        Participant

        Re: Tamara
        I didn’t think your response to organized religion was crass at all and I agree that the realism of past religions tried to bring the humanness of their gods to relate to the people. Christianity was based on a religion where God sent his son to be a human and yet be a part of a holy trinity. That separation needs to be addressed in the art so that the people realize this holy person is someone to respect and put reference to in their holy scriptures. A strong separation from past Pagan gods would have definitely been important too.

    • #7440
      Bob Hook
      Participant

      There is definitely a change in the subject matter and the style of artists during the Byzantine Era. I am amazed at the focus that was placed on Christian religious Imagery. Gone is the Humanist movement of the Greeks. I did a search for secular Byzantine art and I found very little. There were some Islamic images from late in the period and there were some non-religious scenes carved in elephant ivory panels. The article I found stated that ivory was not used to depict religious scenes and I saw more realistic looking relief carvings that depicted chariot races and celebrations. Gone were the depictions of peasants and everyday life. It was replaced with a flattened stylized depiction of saints and angels with details that were indicative of their holiness.

      • #7461
        tmbergan
        Participant

        Bob, you brought up a great point that I completely missed this week — there are no depictions of everyday life during the Byzantine Era. It’s mostly all religious pieces with no signs on how their life was like outside of their new beliefs. This is a huge difference from all the other eras we’ve looked at!

      • #7586
        Lacey Miller
        Participant

        Bob Hook-
        Kind of a bummer to see the art sway so fiercely from humanism. Secular art was very rare and minimal. It makes me wonder if it was destroyed… or if it just wasn’t created.

    • #7443
      Miranda Johansson
      Participant

      I find it so odd that we have gone from realism and humanism, with such intent focus on what it is to be human, to a stoic image of humans. In Byzantine art, there is mainly focus on individuals from the Bible or religious context. There is also quite a bit of architectural design focus, mainly for the intent of worship. This makes me wonder if the icons that we have looked at also were for intent of worship. I honestly think the purpose of the art was to inspire people, as they are placing certain individuals on pedestals and highlighting their significance. Old religions became popular during this time, and there is much focus on virtue. So, instead of focusing on the visual appeal of art, there is focus on the purpose and message of the art. I think that REBECCA AT THE WELL is an example of this. It is an expensive work of art, and it has much significance in telling the story of Rebecca.

      Maybe the stylistic shift in art is because focus on humans is shifting from the imperfect and sinful attributes to focusing on attributes that are considered holy and virtuous? I think that this could be one of the reasons to why we see such a drastic shift in art.

    • #7446
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      The shift from realism to the sort of abstract art that they did during the Byzantine era mostly came out of the intense symbolism that the Christians and Jews wanted to incorporate into their artwork. As they were not meant to worship any icons or graven images, it would be inappropriate if they focused on getting the anatomical detail of the images portrayed rather than the narrative and symbolism. Also, as iconoclasm was going on, they simply did not have the time to focus on perfecting anatomical detail, as they had to do art in secret or in hiding. I think since there was no time for perfection it created a style unique to Byzantium in which soon became the root of medieval styles.

      • #7462
        Bob Hook
        Participant

        Great concept Jessi. I had not considered the fact if they kept the paintings less humanlike than it is easier to deny that they are actual images of the Gods. What I do find interesting that this occurred throughout the timeframe assigned to this era. Almost a thousand years with very little innovation or change. It seems to me that some citizen would have wanted more than just another icon to enlighten their lives.

      • #7463
        tmbergan
        Participant

        Jessi, the artists having to create everything in secret would definitely have a huge impact on how much time and effort they can put into each piece, so it makes a lot of sense that they would start to lose focus in details and proportions as we saw in the Greco-Roman artwork. Imagine how the sculptures we previously saw might look if they had to make all of those in secret like the Byzantines did. Great post!

    • #7447
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      RE: Miranda Johannson
      I agree that they were meant for the intent of worship rather the intent of adoration. I think what you said hits the nail on the head; that they were instead focusing on the message of the art instead of the visual appeal. I do favor the greco-roman realism more so, but I understand the reasoning in the artistic shift.

    • #7448
      Jessi Willeto
      Participant

      RE: Tamara Toy
      I don’t think it’s crass! I completely believe this is the reason why we had such an odd shift in the artistic style. They were fighting for recognition and importance, and the focus on symbolism definitely set them apart from previous cultures we’ve seen. I also think that maybe they did not have the time or goal to perfect human anatomy.

    • #7460
      tmbergan
      Participant

      Stylistically, the Byzantine art definitely shifted away from the realistic and structured forms of art that we had seen in the Greco-Roman pieces. Rather than having sculptures, they started to produce more paintings and mosaics that reverted back to being simpler and almost cartoony. For example, the Virgin of Vladimir shows that painted faces no longer have ideal ratios, instead, they start to elongate the nose and face of the adults and don’t really have a youthful look to them. Their artwork also begins to show a larger variety of different important figures to their faith as well as an actual face for Jesus, which wasn’t seen as often in the previous Christian artworks. An interesting thing that I saw is that the Byzantines were struggling through different crises during their time period, and at one point split the empire in two with their religion. A lot of their pieces almost seem to mimic this with their mosaics, which, as we saw, are images made up of smaller fragments of different materials. It could be nothing, but it was definitely an interesting little detail I noticed.

    • #7465
      Dean Riley
      Participant

      I feel that during this era, “art” has taken a step backwards and has become more of a way to communicate an idea between a group of people rather than a form of expression. In earlier times, rulers used art to elevate themselves to a higher level with the gods. I feel that during the Byzantine times, the art was used to spread the message of the church and was less about conveying realism in the artwork. Because the artists had to show their subject in a pious manner, realism was not as important.

    • #7473
      mbsimington
      Participant

      The focus of art, and by extension, society, experienced a large shift from previous times. The art of Rome was very much politically driven, with many statues and pieces of art depicting leaders and political structures. This shift came alongside the introduction of several new religions, such as the Abrahamic religions. Art went from depicting social and political structures and propaganda to religious structures and propaganda. Decisions made by the public became more driven by their religious beliefs than what their political leaders said. Religious leaders became a large part of society, and people started listening to their direction instead. These religious pieces of art aren’t meant to be realistic, they’re meant to show an individualistic style of what these faiths meant to the artist, and their appreciation for such.

    • #7474
      rdnelson4
      Participant

      Realism showed and depicted what actually happened or the literal appearance of the muse. In the case of much of the art created from the Byzantine Empire, much was more symbolic than art from the Greco-Roman traditions. For example, the Virgin with Child and Saints and Angels Icon seems almost less realistic than far older art we’ve encountered, especially the proportions of the infant. The art is not only literally less realistic, but also figuratively. Much of what is depicted are stories from the Old Testament of the Bible, which would have been ancient even in this time period, and is most likely inaccurately represented. The political climate at this time was a volatile and often violent one, perhaps making its citizens cling to a religion full of hope and reward after death for the faithful.

      • #7628
        Raven Shaw
        Participant

        You made a good point about the political climate at the time being conducive to attracting new Christians. Life was dangerous and unsure, people probably died of starvation and disease a lot. A promise of a good afterlife was probably very attractive. I think there are new surges in adoption of Christianity after natural or human disasters, because churches provide humanitarian aid. People go into the church for blankets and food, see the beautiful art inside and are inspired while their heart is already open from tragedy.

    • #7476
      rdnelson4
      Participant

      I think the less-realistic style certainly does convey emotion better. I always seem to get caught up in the details of art, like the sculptures from the late classical period in Greece for instance. But in these, almost intentionally primitive depictions it seems the message is what shine and not necessarily the art itself, which was most likely the artist’s intent.

    • #7482
      Miranda Jackovich
      Participant

      As we learned earlier in the semester the Greco-Roman art displayed realism. ‘The Ivory Panel with Archangel’ from the Byzantine Empire may be inspired by the Greco-Roman robes but encompasses its own style through dimension and spacing in the artwork. ‘Rebecca at the Well’ from the Vienna Genesis made in Syria or Palestine also shares the same characteristics of style as the Romans but differs from the realism perspective of art. The image shows multiple scenes being played out in one. The Byzantine artwork is a continuation of the Greek and Romans but evolved into its own style due to new factors influencing the culture.

    • #7488
      csayreswoody
      Participant

      After exploring the Byzantine Art and the Roman Art it seems to me that Byzantine artist were more focus on sending a message to the people rather than focusing on the detail and perfection of their art. They wanted to tell us the people about their gods and icons example would be that Virgin with the son angles and icons, and about Christianity and why people should practice this religion. As for the Roman art was more focus displaying the perfection and realism of art as a whole for example is shows in the buildings of their temples and other buildings.

    • #7490
      Aubri Stogsdill
      Participant

      There is a significant shift in the way that art is made within the Byzantine Empire compared to what we find in Roman art. I think a big reason for this is the shift away from a humanistic worldview. As the Christian religion spread, peoples’ values shifted. The goal of the art was no longer to glorify humans. It was instead used to make humans consider God and spiritual things rather than just the natural. Also, there was somewhat of a shift in that the people that were depicted were painted in such a way that they were recognizable, but the artists wanted to portray them as spiritual authorities, rather than just idealized human beings. They also didn’t what ‘heavenly’ things to be seen the same as earthly things. Making more whimsical art that portrayed values and spirituality rather than realism was more important during the Byzantine Empire.

    • #7491
      Aubri Stogsdill
      Participant

      RE Csayreswody

      Really great point! The Romans weren’t so concerned about telling a story or communicating the values of a religion as the Byzantine artists were. This really makes a difference in the way they portrayed basically everything! It is pretty incredible how a difference in worldview can just totally shift the way that people want to document and communicate artistically.

    • #7493
      Jess
      Participant

      The different social and religious changes throughout the ages always tended to change what kind of art was in the world. The semi-new religions that were growing was Christianity which was slowly advancing which of course would reflect in their art. The shift may have come from the changing of how people viewed heaven and earth. I think they wanted to create images and paintings to convey the glory of heaven and the connection between man and God. In the “Ivory Panel with Archangel’ You can see the influence of Roman dress and as well as conveying the power and majesty of the Angel. I think they wanted to move towards conveying the supreme nature of Heaven compared to mankind.

    • #7500
      Sam Saccomen
      Participant

      Looking through the Byzantine art wing, there is a noticeable shift back in time to more of the Egyptian art era. I say this because realism is not shown in Byzantine art like it is shown in Greco-Roman traditions. There is more of 2D images again such as the hieroglyphics of the Egyptian era. Realism wasn’t important anymore in this era, however the importance for the meaning inside the art became most important. People were suppose to look at the image and get a better understanding for this era. This became the overall importance in art of this time changing the social and political climate of Eurasia.

      • #7522
        csayreswoody
        Participant

        I can agree with you about how they didn’t care about the perfection of the art but instead cared more about the importance of the message and religion. Also thank you for pointing out how most art back than was more 2D never viewed it like that or thought to view it like that

    • #7501
      Sam Saccomen
      Participant

      Tamara,
      I thought you had a lot of great examples. I thought all of them were very relevant to prove your points for this discussion.

    • #7578
      Kaylyn Kelly
      Participant

      As new religions grew, a shift is seen in how those in positions of social and political power demonstrate this in Byzantine art. The new religions that were coming to life were early Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. The spike of religions became a large part in the culture whether it be social, political, or cultural. The art that was being created during this time was then used to communicate how much these spiritual systems were needed and how important they were compared to the realistic imagery of Greco-Roman times. Byzantine art began to shift back to 2D form instead of 3D form how art started to shape into over generations. This is a big social and political shift in understanding history. I believe the culture was less focused on evolving the art they created. This era was more focused on using their art to portray stories and communicate. Individuals may not have tried to evolve art during this era due to strict religions.

    • #7587
      Lacey Miller
      Participant

      Artists of the Byzantine Empire had priorities that differed greatly from Greco-Roman traditions. Realism, for example, was no longer of paramount importance. Discuss the shift in stylistic and thematic conventions found in Byzantine art and how it relates to the changing social and political climate of Eurasia.

      The focus of religious imagery is overwhelming. Its kind of a shame to see the humanism fade out almost completely. This could be due to a neccessity of faith to cope with social and political issues. Humans tend to lean heavy on things out of their control when their situation is out of their control. I appreciate the use of more abstract impressions of human form that we see in some of the tempura paintings.

    • #7590
      Gabe
      Participant

      One huge difference between the Christian Byzantines and the Ancient Greeks which could account of their disparate art styles is the different values coming from their spiritual systems. The Greek Pantheon was very embodied, very full of ‘salt and vinegar’, didn’t shy away from food, sex, violence, etc. In comparison, the Christian mythology is one of temperance, martyrdom, and transcendence. It makes sense that with their lust for life, the Greeks would depict realism, dynamic expression, and movement in a very visceral and ‘realistic’ way. Christianity however is about transcending this life, so really the realism of this plane of existence doesn’t matter. Interestingly Byzantine iconography starts to resemble the Ancient Egyptian depictions of deities (especially with the halos) which Greek art originated from. Another reason for the difference in style goes back to the other discussion post about the second commandment. Given that artwork was more likely to be illegal, the profession of master artist was less desirable. Iconography probably requires less technical skill that photo realistic rendering, so people ended up doing what they could do. Without a compelling mythology to motivated them otherwise, simpler depictions of saints and martyrs was the flavor of the day.

      Again, sorry for the late post 🙁

    • #7627
      Raven Shaw
      Participant

      Greco-Roman art focused on realism as the individual human became more valued in their culture. Christianity valued humans as a flock that faithfully followed Christ as their shepherd. I do believe in God and Jesus, but I also believe that some teachings of the bible were meant to keep the lower class in line.

      Early Christians were trying to invent their own art style that would be separate in ways from the Greco-Roman foundation that they had emerged from. The resulting images of humans and Christ ended up abstracted, more like images in an instruction manual than figures in a photo. I think something that contributed to the abstract nature of Byzantine art was that the people illuminating manuscripts were monks locked away underground, not really out looking at the landscapes they were trying to recreate. Some of the abstraction was for the purpose of clear communication though, like in comic books.

      Iconoclasm wasn’t good for the continued development of art — it seems to have set artistic ability back a few steps. Artists had to work in secret on books that contained images, and probably were illustrated by novices who had no great masters left to teach them. This is like the interruption of Egyptian art by being conquered.

    • #7946
      Guy Gaswint
      Participant

      I noticed a major shift from more realistic sculptures of Greco-Roman period during this time, the content during this period seems to be more important. This can be attributed to the shift in the church and the amount of influence it had over society.

      The content of this time was very church oriented and very restrictive, almost a devolution of art in a way. Looking back at previous periods where human proportions and form were at the top of an artists list, it seems like the quality took a back seat to the narrative of the piece.

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