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Art History for Kids: Byzantine Art

June 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Art History

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As a part of our Art History for Kids: Byzantine Art, we will talk about the arts in Constantinople, included architecture, painting, mosaic and many other art expressions.

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The Byzantine Empire was the prolongation of the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. For almost 1,000 years, they were the richest nation in Europe and western Asia; as a result, they led much of the world in art, science, and architecture.

The Roman Empire was divided in two: Western Roman Empire, that kept the name of Rome and fall into decline and was soon conquered, and the Eastern Roman Empire that took the name of Byzantium. By 500 A.D. and it will endure until the Renaissance period.

The Byzantine art was mostly religious, and it revealed the energy and power of the Byzantine society. They use rich materials such as gold and ivory. The churches were imposing and decorations were very rich with color paintings of icons as well as mosaic tiles.

At the same time, the art was also political; some Byzantine emperors had their portraits painted inside the churches.

The use of bright and vivacious colors and the seemingly flat and stiff figures that often appeared to be floating above the ground were intended to be religious messages.

The exterior design of the churches during the byzantine period looked similar to the public buildings of Rome, but the interior walls, domes, arches and floors were covered by mosaic tiles illustrating religious images from Jesus life, as well as other sacred themes.

During the Byzantine period, artists had to follow strict rules; they were able to use their skills, but not their creativity. The skills and techniques were passed from fathers to sons or were learned by apprentices in their masters’ workshops.

One of the most important art expressions during the Byzantine period was the icon. It was a symbolic image of Jesus, the Virgin, or a saint, painted in bright colors with gold backgrounds. The figures shown in icons seem to float and their body proportions followed very strict rules to symbolize the Christendom’s teachings.

The illumination of manuscripts was another major genre of Byzantine art. The most commonly illustrated texts were copies of the bible.

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To learn about the fall of Constantinople and the dawn or Renaissance, click on the image below:

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