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Greek Art - Byzantine Period
The most famous of the surviving Byzantine mosaics.
|Byzantine art is the term commonly used to
describe the artistic products of the
Eastern Roman Empire from about the
5th century until the fall of
1453. (The Roman Empire during this period is
conventionally known as the
The term can also be used for the art of states which were contemporary with the Byzantine Empire and shared a common culture with it, without actually being part of it, such as Bulgaria, Serbia or Russia, and also Venice, which had close ties to the Byzantine Empire despite being in other respects part of western European culture. It can also be used for the art of peoples of the former Byzantine Empire under the rule of the Ottoman Empire after 1453.
In some respects the Byzantine artistic tradition has continued in Greece, Russia and other Eastern Orthodox countries to the present day.
Byzantine art grew from the art of Ancient Greece, and at least before 1453 never lost sight of its classical heritage, but was distinguished from it in a number of ways. The most profound of these was that the humanist ethic of Ancient Greek art was replaced by the Christian ethic. 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 the dominant - indeed almost exclusive - focus of Byzantine art. One of the most important forms of Byzantine art was, and still is, the icon: an image of Christ, the Virgin (particularly the Virgin and Child), or a saint, used as an object of veneration in Orthodox churches and private homes.