Much of the art surviving from Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire is Christian art, although this in large part because the continuity of church ownership has preserved church art better than secular works. While the Western Roman Empire's political structure essentially collapsed after the fall of Rome, its religious hierarchy, what is today the modern-day Roman Catholic Church commissioned and funded production of religious art imagery.
The rapid rise of Arab power during the 7th century and the consequential economic difficulties suffered by the Byzantine Empire, led to a reappraisal of Arab culture and Islamic art. During the 8th century (726-787) and the 9th century (814-842), this culminated in two "Iconoclasms", when a ban was imposed on all figurative artworks. This went down very badly with Byzantine mosaicists. Many emigrated to Rome who were firmly opposed to Iconoclasm. Others, paradoxically, went to Arab cities where they produced some of the finest ever abstract mosaics. See, for instance, those in the Islamic Dome of the Rock (688-91, Jerusalem) and the Great Mosque (715, Damascus). Scripture Art
The Catholic Church launched the Counter-Reformation to fight for the hearts and minds of those Christians who had 'gone over' to Protestantism. To this end, the Society of Jesus (Societas Jesu) - founded by S. Ignatius Loyola and commonly known as the Jesuits - was formally established in 1540 by Pope Paul III, as an important teaching body and missionary order. Jesuit art was suitably inspirational. First, the architect Giacomo Barozzi (Vignola) was commissioned to design a church for the new order - The Church of the Holy Name of Jesus (Il Gesu) (1568-73) - for which the Baroque painter Giovanni Battista Gaulli painted the fabulous trompe l'oeil ceiling frescoes. Another Jesuit church, the San Ignazio, was the setting for what is arguably the greatest example of quadratura painting ever created - The Triumph and Apotheosis of St Ignatius of Loyola (1691-4) by Andrea Pozzo. There exists no greater exemplar of Counter-Reformation painting, and no better example of the differences between Protestant and Catholic art.
Given its theocratic nature, it is perhaps not surprising that Byzantine culture is more noted for its icons than its murals. First appearing during the early 4th century, these small-scale devotional diptych panel paintings (sometimes called "travelling icons") of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, or Saints, proved hugely popular. Church screens (iconostases) were filled with them, as were private homes. After the victory of the pro-figurative Iconodules over the Iconoclasts in 842, the production of icons increased dramatically, and the techniques of icon painting spread to Greece and Russia, notably to Kiev, Novgorod and Moscow. Famous examples of Byzantine icon paintings include: The Virgin Hodegetria (mid 5th century, Hodegon Monastery, Constantinople: now lost); St Peter (c.550, Monastery of St Catherine, Mount Sinai); St Michael (c.950-1000, Tesoro di San Marco, Venice); the Holy Virgin of Vladimir (c.1131, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow); Madonna of Don Icon (c.1380, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow) by Theophanes the Greek, founder of the Novgorod school of icon-painting (c.1100-1500); and Mother of God Hodigitria (1502-3) by Dionysius, an early master of the Moscow School of painting (c.1500-1700).
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song. In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion. There he broke the flashing arrows, the shield, the sword, and the weapons of war. Selah Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains of prey. The stouthearted were stripped of their spoil; they sank into sleep; all the men of war were unable to use their hands. ... Share Your Faith Products
The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre. He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood, and in purple, blue, and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all sorts of engraving and execute any design that may be assigned him, with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my lord, David your father.
Of David. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. ... Christian Canvas Art
Probably the most spectacular form of Christian painting was the church ceiling mural painting (called quadratura), often executed with trompe l'oeil illusionist effects. This decoration of vaulted/domed ceilings of churches began during the Renaissance in Italy. Renaissance examples included: the Sala delle Prospettive fresco (c.1517, Villa Farnesina) by Baldessare Peruzzi; and the Assumption of the Virgin (1524-30) by Correggio, which decorated the domed ceiling of Parma Cathedral.
Thus says the Lord, “Go, buy a potter's earthenware flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests, and go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the entry of the Potsherd Gate, and proclaim there the words that I tell you. You shall say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing such disaster upon this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— ... Christian Canvas Art
Architectural sculpture was another important feature. Column statues and reliefs of figures from the Old Testament, as well as depictions of Christ and other members of the Holy Family, were commonplace. Gothic sculpture developed in a series of small creative steps. First came an increased realism, visibly different from the rather wooden look of the Romanesque idiom; then we see more graceful figures with soft drapery; then figures with a solid, upright appearance, with more restrained gestures. Finally came figures with dainty postures and thick drapery hanging in long V-shaped folds. Among the greatest sculptors were Nicola Pisano (c.1206-1278) and Arnolfo di Cambio (c.1240–1310). Scripture Art
Much of the art surviving from Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire is Christian art, although this in large part because the continuity of church ownership has preserved church art better than secular works. While the Western Roman Empire's political structure essentially collapsed after the fall of Rome, its religious hierarchy, what is today the modern-day Roman Catholic Church commissioned and funded production of religious art imagery. Christian Canvas Art
"Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. "This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. "You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. Christian Gifts
Unless otherwise indicated, all content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Contact me: openbibleinfo (at) gmail.com. Cite this page: Editor: Stephen Smith. Publication date: May 9, 2019. Publisher: OpenBible.info.
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. 6 Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: Christian Canvas Art
In short, the sole purpose of Counter-Reformation art was to glorify God and Catholic traditions, and promote the sacraments and the saints. Thus Michelangelo's Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel was heavily criticized for its nudity, for showing Jesus without a beard, and for including the pagan character of Charon. Paolo Veronese's painting The Last Supper was (not unreasonably) attacked for including extravagant costumes, drunken Germans and dwarfs along with a huge crowd of people. In fact, Veronese simply side-stepped the issue by renaming the picture Feast in the House of Levi.
Romanesque architecture had to cope with the growing number of pilgrims visiting the sites of holy relics across Europe. In France/Spain, for instance, massive archways were built to cope with the huge devout crowds on the El Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (1075-1211) in Galicia, northwestern Spain, where the remains of the apostle Saint James are reportedly interred. Other Romanesque churches on the route included St Etienne Pilgrimage Church (1063, Nevers), and Saint-Sernin Pilgrimage Church (1120, Toulouse). Christian Canvas Art
Many of these genre paintings contained subtle moral messages about how to live a Christian life, as well as not so subtle messages about the dangers of vice. This low-key Protestant iconography was a complete contrast to the intense Biblical scenes, such as the Crucifixion and the Lamentation, favoured by Catholic art. Still lifes provided another example of this moralistic art. Known as Vanitas painting, this genre consisted of arrangements of food and other objects laid out on a table, complete with symbolic messages that frowned upon gluttony and sensual indulgence. There were two varieties of vanitas paintings: "banquet pieces" (pronkstilleven), or "breakfast pieces" (ontbijtjes). Exponents of pronkstilleven included: Harmen van Steenwyck (1612-56), Jan Davidsz de Heem (1606-84) and Willem Kalf (1622-93). While the leading practitioners of ontbijtjes included: Willem Claesz Heda (1594-1680) and Pieter Claesz (1597-1660). Christian Canvas Art