What Are The Defining Characteristics Of Byzantine Art?


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Christopher Adam Profile
Byzantine art refers to paintings, icons and frescos produced in the Byzantine Empire (330-1453). Art produced by the Byzantines was usually religious in nature and often took the form of religious icons. Icons were seens as serving a dual purpose. Firstly, they were sacred religious objects, which were to be venerated by all Christians. In fact, any hostility to icons was eventually declared to be heretical by Byzantine authorities. Secondly, icons were also meant to be treated as works of art and artists wanted their work to be aesthetically pleasing.

Some art historians have argued that Byzantine art is, above all, based on a type of classicism, while others have a focused on the centrality of Constantinople, the administrative, political and spiritual centre of Byzantium, when discussing the nature of art work in the Byzantine Empire. These two arguments can certainly be connected if one argues that Byzantium was perceived as the "eastern Roman empire" by many at the time. Other art historians, however, have asserted that the most important aspect of Byztantine art is that it is the work of the Orthodox Church and is inseparably tied to this institution.

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