The Orthodox Church of Constantinople, which enjoyed greater stability within the surviving Eastern Empire was key in commissioning imagery there and glorifying Christianity. As a stable Western European society emerged during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church led the way in terms of art, using its resources to commission paintings and sculptures. Christian Gifts

“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: ... Christian Gifts


The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him? So now send me a man skilled to work in gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and in purple, crimson, and blue fabrics, trained also in engraving, to be with the skilled workers who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem, whom David my father provided.
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

By the middle of the 18th century, Catholic countries were becoming overstocked with cathedrals, churches, abbeys, monasteries and convents - in the case of certain cities like Naples, almost absurdly so. As a result, ecclesiastical commissions began to dry up. At the same time, with the advent of the 18th century Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and political upheavals like the French Revolution of 1789, the European Christian Church lost ground to nationalism, socialism and other value systems. What's more, it raised less money to spend on religious statues or other forms of church art. By the 19th century, the Church was less important as a patron of the arts than kings and noblemen, while the middle class demand for portraits, topographical landscapes and other secular works, was increasing rapidly. Painters could enjoy a prosperous career simply by focusing on portrait art, or various types of landscape painting, without ever painting a religious subject - something hitherto unknown in Catholic countries, though long regarded as normal in Protestant ones. Scripture Art

As the power of Rome declined, that of Constantinople grew. In 535, the armies of Justinian I (482-565), Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565, invaded Italy (mostly occupied by barbarians) and in 540 conquered Ravenna, which became the seat of Byzantine government in Italy. From 540 to 600, the Exarch of Ravenna instigated a major building program of churches in the city and its port township of Classe: they included the Basilica of San Vitale and the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe. The Basilica of San Vitale combines a Roman dome, doorways and stepped towers, with a Byzantine polygonal apse, as well as Byzantine capitals, and narrow bricks. It is world famous for its Byzantine mosaics, the most spectacular and best preserved mosaic art outside Constantinople. For details, see: Ravenna Mosaics (c.400-600).
Christian art of the 14th century, the pre-Renaissance era, was dominated by Giotto - see the Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel Frescoes (c.1303-10) - and Duccio de Buoninsegna (1255-1318) - see the celebrated polyptych for Siena Cathedral, known as the Maesta Altarpiece (1308-11). After this came the Early Renaissance in Florence, exemplified by the city's duomo - for more, see: Florence Cathedral, Brunelleschi and the Renaissance (1420-36) - Masaccio (Brancacci Chapel frescoes) and Donatello (statue of David). If 15th century Christian art was dominated by Florence, the centre of 16th century Christian art was Rome, where the greatest patrons were Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84), Pope Julius II (1503-13), Pope Leo X (1513-21) and Pope Paul III (1534-49). Scripture Art
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