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Byzantine style

68 artworks, 9 artists
The styles that characterized Byzantine art (derives from Greek Bysantion, a city in Asia Minor on the shores of the Thracian Bosporus, the strait connecting the Black and Mediterranean Seas; now Istanbul) formed in the 3rd—5th centuries and became a significant part of the world cultural heritage. “Byzantium created a brilliant culture, perhaps the most brilliant that the Middle Ages knew, unquestionably the only one that existed in Christian Europe until the 11th century...” (French historian Charles Diehl)
In 330, Emperor Constantine the Great transferred the official capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium and declared the city the New Rome. Eighty years later, the Roman Empire split into Western and Eastern parts. After the fall of the West under the invasion of the Germanic tribes, the Eastern territories got their name, the Byzantine Empire, and existed for eleven centuries. In visual arts, an original Byzantine style developed, which united the features of the antique artists and the followers of Christianity, the ethnic features of the peoples of Europe and the Middle East: Greeks, Romans, Semites and Persians.
Historians have identified four stages of the development of Byzantine art according to periods, key dates, and stylistic features. Early Byzantine period of the 3rd—4th centuries became the “golden age” of the emperor Justinian and presented to descendants the monumental domed architecture of palaces and temples that were decorated with frescoes and mosaics. The image of Jesus Christ took the main place in the visual arts — Byzantine artists emphasized the moral perfection of the Son of God, the victory of the spirit over the body. In the 8th and 9th centuries, the “dark times” of Iconoclasm began. Emperor Leo III the Isaurian issued an Edict prohibiting icons and the authorities subjected the art to strict regulations. The struggle between the icon admirers and the adherents of the idea of “the unavailability of depicting God in a human form” lasted for two centuries. At that time, in Byzantine society, exquisite secular art and artistic crafts developed: precious metalwork and ivory carving, enamel and coloured glasswork. The period of the Macedonian renaissance of the mid-9th — late 11th centuries became the peak of the Byzantine style. Artists drew knowledge about the spiritual and material world from the Bible and the works of ancient authors, created masterpieces of painting, icon painting, sculpture and architecture. Constantinople has become a source of numerous Byzantine icons, jewellery and paintings. In the late Byzantine period, 1200—1450s, the empire repeated the fate of the First Rome and perished under the onslaught of Turkish troops. The Byzantine icons of the waining days seemed to convey the mood and presentiments of a future catastrophe: the artists of the style filled the faces of the saints with sadness, anxiety and deep reflections.
Descendants inherited the visual arts of Byzantium in three forms. Book miniatures adorned ancient parchments and served as the basis for the development of European and Russian book art. Masters of Byzantine monumental painting created frescoes and mosaics: strict, proportional, with predominant dark colours and heavy forms, filled with religious symbolism. The icons have gained the title of pearls of the Byzantine style. The main features of icon painting are strict canons; flat and symmetrical shapes; severe and mourning faces; asceticism of the colour palette of the central image surrounded by golden halos and precious ornaments. Byzantium fell under the onslaught of the Turks, but the elements of the Byzantine style remained relevant in architecture and interior decoration until the end of the 20th century.
Famous pictures and icons of the Byzantine style: Saviour in Power 1410, Saviour 1410, Nativity of Christ 1411, Trinity 1421 by Andrei Rublev; Virgin of Vladimir, the Eleusa; The Mother of God with the Child, Saint Cyril, Christ 1885 by Mikhail Vrubel.
Artists: Andrei Rublev, Mikhail Vrubel.