Byzantium: faith and power 1261 - 1557

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Byzantium – the state which has brought in the big contribution to

development of culture to Europe of middle ages. Here the Christianity for

the first time became an official religion. Christianity affected the Byzantine

art. In Byzantine art the main subject of paintings – icons (Greek – image)

were holy figures: Christ, the Virgin Mary, the saints, and the apostles. One of

the most famous is icon with Archangel Gabriel, Byzantine (Constantinople or

Sinai?), 13th century. There is the exhibition devoted to the art of Byzantine

civilization at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition begins in 1261,

when the capital Constantinople was restored to imperial rule, and concludes in

1557. It is last period of existence of Byzantium and time of last blossoming of

its culture.

One of the great example of Byzantine icons is Two-Sided Icon with the

Virgin Pafsolype and Feast Scenes and the Crucifixion and Prophets,

Byzantine (Constantinople) second half of the 14th century. On the observe

side there is the picture of the Virgin and Child surrounded by ten feast

scenes. At the upper left corner we can see Archangel Gabriel tells to the

Virgin that she will have a Child. The last scene is the death of the Virgin.

On the reserve side we can see the Crucifixion of the Christ. Mother and

apostle stand near Christ with a great sorrow on their faces. The other great
icon from that epoch is icon with Saint Catherine of Alexandria and

Scenes of her Passion and Martyrdom, Sinai, 13th century. The image of

Saint Catherine also surrounded by twelve small scenes from her life. There

are scenes of her imprisonment and torture, and we can see that angel never

leaves her. The last scene is her beheading. If we look at this icon we can see

that the Saint Catherine holds the cross on her hands; it means that she was

murdered because of her faith in Christianity. She dressed as a royal person.

The background of an icon symbolizes divine essence. For example, gold –

Divine light, white – cleanliness of the Christ and light of his Divine, green -

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"Byzantium: faith and power 1261 - 1557." 18 Mar 2018
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youth and vivacity, red – a sign on an imperial dignity. These both icons are

represented on a gold background; this means a Divine light. The same

concerned elements of clothes and their colors. These two icons are made

with tempera on wood. And both those icons were used in processions.

The paintings from the Byzantine civilization are similar to Italian paintings

of Renaissance period. In Renaissance they also used religious motive in

their paintings. The shapes of figures and colors are similar too. Byzantine

art is very unique and special.

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