The Art of Byzantium - History of Western European...

2.5. The Art of Byzantium

The Middle Ages of Western Europe can not be understood and perceived in isolation from the art of Byzantium. In 330, Emperor Constantine founded the city of Constantinople in Asia Minor on the site of the ancient city of Byzantium, which gave the name of the entire eastern part of the Roman Empire after its division in 395. Christianity in Byzantium as a state religion initiated the formation of the Greco-Eastern type of culture.

Byzantine art developed on the basis of the Hellenistic culture of Greece, Palestine, Ptolemaic Egypt, Sassanian Iran. It passed in its development the early period, the so-called golden age Emperor Justinian (527-565), the period actually encompassing the IV-VII centuries; period iconoclastic (VIII - first half of IX century); period of the Macedonian Renaissance (second half of the 9th-11th century), so called for the revival of ancient ideals under the emperor-Macedonian Vassily I (867-886); period of conservatism under the emperors of the Komnin dynasty (1081 - 1185); the so-called "Palaeologic Renaissance", which began in 1261, when Michael VIII Palaeologus took away from Constantinople the crusaders crushed by the crusaders in the last campaign, and until 1453 the year of the final fall of the Great city under the daggers of the Turkish Janissaries. Thus, Byzantine art lasted a thousand years.

It was a great art, which gave brilliant examples of architecture, in particular, the type of cross-domed church, later perceived in ancient Russia. As an example, it is enough to name the temple of Sofia in Constantinople (the builders of the Asia Minor Amphimia of Thrall and Isidore of Miletus), where the Roman dome is used, but with its support not on the walls, but on four supports through the arches and sails. The central nave is separated from the lateral columns with the arches resting on them. It is these arcades that the Italian architects considered as a feature of the ancient architecture and subsequently began to widely use this technique.

Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople

The Byzantines perfected the mosaic, performing it from colored glass - smalt - instead of an antique mosaic made of sea pebbles or pieces of marble. They put slices of smalt at a certain angle, strengthening the flickering of the golden background, creating mystery and mystic mood. The floors and the lower parts of the walls were decorated with colored marble.

Byzantine masters left to the world samples of fine stone carving of capitals, remarkable hand-written miniatures and works of jewelry art - pearl and gold embroidery, processing and decoration of precious stones in rings, earrings, bracelets, glass art. These trades Byzantines, who fled from the Turks in 1453, distributed in Northern Italy (Venice), Sicily, the Balkans, Transcaucasia, Russia. Note that the Eastern Christian type of culture began to spread on these lands even earlier with the adoption of a new Christian faith.

For the art of Byzantium is characterized by strict canonicity (following the pattern) and impersonalism. This art is deeply symbolic ("the nature of God is formless and ugly, invisible and immense"). According to the Byzantine canon, the icons compose holy fathers, and the icon-painter is only the executor. In the Byzantine image there is no movement, it is static, devoid of direct perspective, cut-off modeling, hint of foreshortening, depth. Of course, all this is typical for medieval art in general, but for the millennial history of the western Middle Ages, it evolved from the churches of Saint Gilles and Saint Trophimus to Arles to cathedrals in Amiens and Reims, from the reliefs of the Saint Lazar churches in Otien or Saint Pierre in Muassac to almost round sculptures of the temples of Reims or Strasbourg. Byzantine art for millennia froze in their dogmas, bound by strict canons and regulations. That is why, it seems to us, at the height of the "Palaeologic Renaissance" Theophanes the Greek departs from Byzantium to distant Russia, into the thick of the boiling artistic life - to Novgorod, where new paths and opportunities await him.

Emperor Constantine and Empress Zoe before Christ. Mosaic of St. Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople

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