Byzantine Art

Byzantine art is the name for the artistic products of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, as well as the nations and states that inherited culturally from the empire. Though the empire itself emerged from Rome’s decline in the early 5th century and lasted until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, many Eastern Orthodox states in Eastern Europe, as well as to some degree the Muslim states of the eastern Mediterranean, preserved aspects of the empire’s culture and art for centuries afterward.  Byzantine art was initially fueled by Christianity and was therefore most often a vehicle for religious expression.  Through Byzantine artworks, Church theology was translated into an artistic, recognizable, and digestible visual form. This style of art produced during the Byzantine Empire, although marked by periodic revivals of a classical aesthetic, was above all marked by the development of a new aesthetic.  The most salient feature which was its “abstract,” or anti-naturalistic character. If classical art was marked by the attempt to create representations that mimicked reality as closely as possible, Byzantine art seems to have abandoned this attempt in favor of a more symbolic approach.  The sophisticated style of Byzantine art evolved out of a rigid tradition and system of anonymous production. This allowed for the viewer to easily interpret and understand the message, whether they were literate or not, due to the close adherence to a single style and its precise use of cross cultural symbols.  The Barakat Gallery houses numerous ancient artifacts from the empire in a variety of forms from the famous crosses and manuscripts to its distinctive metalwork and jewelry.