Ancient Sculpture Gallery

Byzantine Art Reproductions

Byzantine art is generally taken to include the arts of the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire) from the foundation of the new capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul) in AD 330 on the location of ancient Byzantium, to the capture of the city by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Byzantine art grew from the ancient classical heritage, but was distinguished from it in a number of ways. If the purpose of classical art was the glorification of man, the purpose of Byzantine art was the glorification of God, and particularly of his son, Jesus. In place of the nude, the figures of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints and martyrs of Christian tradition were elevated, and became almost exclusive focus of Byzantine artists.

The greatest legacy of Byzantine art is that it made possible the Renaissance in western Europe. By the 11th century the art of Byzantine icons was widely diffused from Russia and Ukraine to Norman Sicily and Venice in Italy. By the 12th century the influence of Byzantium on western European art reached its zenith and played a truly generative role in the development within Romanesque Art of a revival in realistic portraiture and greater naturalism in style and humanism in content. This influence was transmitted through the Frankish and Salic emperors, primarily Charlemagne, who had close relations with Byzantium. And despite the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Byzantine cultural heritage had been widely diffused from Macedonia, Thrace and Greece, to Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and, most importantly, to Russia, which became the centre of the Orthodox world following the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans.