Artistic canons of Byzantine art
In general, discussing the artistic features of Byzantine icons, one can not help noting their strict canonicity, which is found not only in the strict hierarchy of colors that was established at that time, but also in compositional techniques of the image. So, the image of Christ was strictly regulated, it could only be frontal, while the image of the Mother of God, the apostles could be given in three quarters; in the profile depicted only negative images - the images of Satan, hell. The canonicity of Byzantine art is distinguished by a special normality that is incommensurable with the system of regulating the artistic practice of the Western European Middle Ages.
Let's dwell on the symbolism of colors. Each color, along with the word, was an important exponent of spiritual essences and expressed a deep religious meaning. The highest place was occupied by purple color - the color of divine and imperial dignity. The next color is red, the color of the flame, fire (both punishing and purifying) - it is the color of life-giving heat and, therefore, the symbol of life. White color often stood up to the red as a symbol of divine color. The clothes of Christ in Byzantine painting, as a rule, are white. Already from the time of Antiquity, white color had the meaning of purity and holiness, detachment from all worldly, i.e. color. Next was the black color as the opposite of white, as a sign of the end, of death. Then - green color, which symbolized youth, flowering. And finally, blue and blue, which were perceived in Byzantium as symbols of the transcendent world.
This is a symbolic treatment of flowers, which has its roots in the culture of Hellenism. It is important to note that, in general, for Byzantine iconography, psychologism is not typical, its main aesthetic features are generalization, conventionality, statics, self-absorption, etiquette, canonicity.
Approximately from the IX. gaining strength secular Byzantine art. About him until recently, little was known, now the studied monuments allow us to talk about the development of the so-called "optimizing tradition," which activates aesthetics. It co-existed alongside other currents, namely, church-patriotic and church-monastic (aesthetics of asceticism).
Of course, the main reference point of secular artistic representations is the hedonistic aspect of beauty, emphasis on the expressiveness of sensory perception. Byzantines X, XI and XII centuries. with ecstasy they read pagan writers, actively use pagan reminiscences in their own creative work. First of all, the work of such a bright writer as Mikhail Psell (XI century) attracts attention. Psell, like his fellow citizens, had an interest in what can be defined as the beauty of a person. Despite the countless calls of the clergy and the church to renounce bodily beauty, the Byzantine novels show details that show the deep emotional responsiveness of their creators and, obviously, readers.
Here, for example, a description of the portrait of Emperor Basil II, which gave Psell. His eyes were "light blue and shiny, his eyebrows not hanging or threatening, but not stretched out in a straight line, like a woman's, but curved, showing off the proud nature of her husband. His eyes are not drowned, like those of insidious and cunning people, but they are not convex, like those of dissolute ones, with a gray masculine luster. His whole face was carved as an ideal circle drawn from the center and connected to the shoulders with a strong neck and not too long. All the members of his body differed in proportionality, and sitting on a horse, he represented an incomparable sight - his chased figure rose in the saddle, like a statue. " Such an expressive artistic reconstruction of the plasticity of the corporal image can be found in many sources.
Anna Comnina (XII century.), the royal daughter of Alexei I, in the descriptions of the Empress Irina pays much attention to the image of spiritual beauty, to the living image of harmony. In her presentation, Irina "was like a harmonious, ever blooming shoot, the parts and members of this body harmonized with each other, expanding and narrowing where necessary. It was nice to look at Irina and listen to her speeches and it was really impossible to saturate the hearing with the sound of her voice, and her gaze with the look of ".
If the above descriptions are compared with the sophistication and sophistication of the literary texts of Hellenism, then the first, of course, lose even in the language that passed a fairly naive and elementary set of properties and concepts. Byzantine authors themselves felt this, and therefore stressed in every way the idea of the ineffability of bodily beauty. Such regular emphasis on the ineffability of worldly beauty has actually passed into the approval of the idea of a radiance of beauty, to such an extent that it is already unbearable to look at it.
Here comes a rather serious question: most often the medieval culture was defined as the "culture of hearing," and not the culture of vision, on the basis that the very procedure of worship, prayer songs, sermon more actualized the sounding word, and not written. However, if you pay attention to how intensively developed architecture, icon painting, visual arts, then you can accept this thesis with great amendments. This is confirmed by the texts of the Byzantine novel, which continued the traditions of the ancient novel.
One of the dominant searches for Byzantine aesthetics is the discussion of the problem of the image in the icon and its divine pre-image. Byzantium strove for the stability of iconographic schemes - a trend that was predominantly from the East, from the Egyptian characters. The author-painter should not exercise in the ability to adequately recreate the images of the real world, but to follow a strictly regulated path, which was considered as a condition for ascension to the Absolute, the only way to express universally significant symbols.
As with any restrictions, these canons rectified creative idea, generated dramatic contradictions in the authors. Significant in this respect are the recognition of the bishop of the early Middle Ages Aurelius Augustine (354-430), which touched upon a number of his works on aesthetics. In Confessions there is eloquent introspection: Sometimes it seems to me that I give these sounds more honor than befit, I notice that with the same sacred words our souls are more kindled by the flame of piety when these words are sung in such a way, and not otherwise. " Augustine is an artistically receptive person, deeply feels the nuances of melodic performance, but this is what causes his embarrassment. "The delight of my flesh, which should not be given to the power of the mind, often deceives me." Instead of following patiently for the meaning of the hymns, it tries to break through and lead for itself, for the sake of which it had the right to exist. So I sin, myself unconscious, and I only realize afterwards. "
As you can see, we are talking about the fact that already in itself musical expressiveness - timbre, combination of voices, melodic drawing - exudes strong magic, awakens excitement, and this excitement, sometimes proving to be the most important result perception, to some extent is an obstacle to the path of purely religious meditation. Such an evaluation of artistic influence, not so much plunging into the world of scholasticism, as awakening the living sensuous nature of man, frightened many authors of the Middle Ages. Undoubtedly, those aesthetic institutions that are both final, officially adapted, are the result of a great dramatic inner struggle.
It is significant that a number of icon painters, as soon as they had the opportunity, tried to leave Byzantium. Thus, Theophanes the Greek, born in Byzantium, as an artist, actually took place on United States soil. There are other examples, when a number of masters, doomed to narrow blinkers of Byzantine demands, were able to realize themselves in Western Europe, where the oppression of such rigid canons was not felt.
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