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Home >> Popular Painting Styles >> Byzantine Art

Byzantine Art

Byzantine Art was the true predecessor to what we now know as Christian Paintings. It originated from Greece and its soul purpose was the glorification of God and his son Jesus. The focus of Byzantine art was images of God, Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, Saints and Martyrs. These paintings were soon seen as objects of Veneration in orthodox churches of Europe

The Byzantine Style

Byzantine Art was that of surfaces, painters were adept in playing around with different kind of surfaces but they chose the flatness of two dimensionality. By the fifth century three-dimensional sculpture, which had been a prominent form in Hellenistic and Roman art, was no longer produced. Probably Byzantine chose to depict figures that were physically beautiful but no longer actually solid because of a desire to express the spirituality of the Christian religion.

Representation of human Figures

Interestingly Byzantine artists chose to represent human figures in two very distinctively different styles. Each one of them differed not only in form and content but in their spirit and attitude too. While the frontal Christ, the Virgin, Saints and the members of imperial family are confident and benign; the others are in stark contrast to them. The Christ images are full length and the upper part of the body is intricately depicted. The focus is on the eyes, facial expression, and hands, which make gestures of grace and blessings.. One can see the influence of ancient Roman portrait paintings and carved busts in these paintings.

The second style follows what seems to be a narrative structure. The figures seem to express adoration, sympathy, prayer, distress, and many such human emotions. Figures in action, often casual and playful, also appear in classical mythological scenes. Figures and indications of setting were defined by outlines, not by atmosphere or soft shadows.

Byzantine Painters

Artists were much respected in Byzantine culture, although most paintings are left anonymous until the thirteenth century. Artists were not specialized in only one particular technique, they dabbled with different forms; a mosaicist, for instance, could also paint on fresh plaster, creating frescoes. Skills were passed on from a father to a son or a daughter, as were the equipments, possibly including drawings. Parents also placed their children as apprentices with masters. Sometimes painters who created small-scale objects worked either at home or in small clusters. When Byzantine artists worked abroad, they usually traveled in groups.

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