In what ways are we like the early Christians? Many today still profess a shared belief in Christianity, as opposed to the pagan belief systems of the civilizations that preceded it, Greece and Rome. If we don’t profess a belief in these ideas, we are still indebted to its ideology and our laws and general cultural beliefs, in part, extend from it. However, in many cases, we have taken these icons of Christianity and modified them to suit our needs and to comment on and critique their significance. The photographer, Andres Serrano did this in the 1980s when he submerged a crucifix in his own urine and photographed it, a move that was and still is considered widely controversial, even blasphemous to many who still believe in the sanctity of such images and objects. While Serrano claimed there was no overt political message intended in this act, many have situated it in the context of the AIDS crisis in the 80s and the irrational fear of others and of their contaminated bodily fluids. In fact, it is more like early Christian and Byzantine art than you might realize. Like in the Byzantine era when sacred images were destroyed in acts of iconoclasm, an issue we’ll discuss today, Piss Christ has too been the object of vandalism, most recently in Avignon, France in 2011. Either way, it exists as a hauntingly beautiful image and a great example of the enduring power of images and of traditions dating back to the Early Christian eras.
So, while their imagery and ways of life may seem far different from our own, early Christians devised strategies in the creation of their artworks that are not unlike the practices of some of these contemporary artists or even images from popular culture. They too wanted to harness and assume some of the power of then rulers, the Roman Empire, who had persecuted these Christians. And so they borrowed from their pagan mythologies and incorporated their aesthetics into their own. In telling their stories, in their depiction of their saints (and their icons), the Christians borrowed Classical types from ancient Greece and Rome. We can see this most obviously in the Christian image on the right, in the Classical clothing worn and what appears to be a Classical column on the right. This act of merging of two distinctive belief systems or practices into one is a form of syncretism , which will be a central theme that will guide us through today’s discussion of Early Christian and Byzantine art.
So, let’s define some of our terms for today.
Perhaps more so than any other object we will discuss today, Hagia Sophia is a monument to historical transitions of power and to syncretism itself. It was built as a Christian church using Roman architectural principles. It later became a mosque (hence the minarets at each of the corners), and now stands as a museum.
Following the 12 th century, the Byzantine Empire endured a number of upheavals. Ultimately, the Byzantine Orthodox Church broke free from the Church of Rome and the Crusades brought Latin (Western) invaders into Byzantium to fight for the Church against the Saracens (Muslims) in the Holy Land. It was during the Fourth Crusade in 1203/04 that Constantinople was sacked and the Latins set up their kingdoms there. Byzantium never regained its former glory. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople and ended the Byzantine Empire.
Lecture, Early Christianity and Byzantium
Early Christianity Crucixion, mosaic, Church of the Dormition, Greece, 1090 CE Andres Serrano, Piss Christ, 1987 & Byzantium
From Pagan to ChristianThree Goddesses(Hestia, Dione,Aphrodite?)From the eastpediment of theParthenon, Greece Detail from David composing theca. 400 BCE Psalms, ca. 950–970. Fig. 4-24.
Syncretism – the combination of different forms of belief orpractice (also known today as “appropriation”) Virgin (Theotokos) and Child between Saints Theodore and George, icon, sixth or early seventh century. Fig. 4-20. Icon – an image or representation; in Christianity, an image of a sacred figure Iconography – the content or subject of an artwork, including the study of the symbolic meanings of images
Iconoclasm – the destruction of images; also the periodfrom 726 to 843 when there was an imperial ban on images Empty niche where a destroyed 6th century Buddha statue once stood, destroyed in 2001 by the Taliban, Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan
Early Christian – Margin Made CenterDates and Places:• 3rd and 4th centuries CE• RomePeople:• Monotheistic• Co-exist with polytheistic Roman religion Interior, Sant’Apollinare Nuovo,• Christianity legalized by dedicated 504. Fig. 4-5. Constantine in 313CE DATES: Jewish already existing before this period and continuing to the present Early Christian c.100 – 300 CE Imperial Christian c. 300 – 500 CE Byzantine c. 500 –1450 CE
Early Christian – Margin Made CenterThemes:• Christ as good shepherd, emperor• Old Testament prefigurations• Appropriated Roman symbols for new useForms:• Stylized forms, non- illusionistic Miracle of the loaves and fishes mosaic, Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, ca.• Conceptual, not optical 504. Fig. 4-9.
Early Christian – Margin Made Center#1 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, ca. 359. Fig. 4-3.
Early Christian – Margin Made Center• Divided into 2 registers with five compartments each #1• Old Testament prefiguration (Adam & Eve, Sacrifice of Isaac, Daniel in Lion’s Den)• New Testament redemption (Christ enthroned)• Christ central figure• Christ somewhat modeled after Roman emperor (equestrian portraiture) Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, ca. 359. Fig.• Conventionalized, stylized 4-3. forms like Arch of Constantine• No crucifixion scene (focus on divinity and teachings vs. suffering) Equestrian statue of• Scene with Pontius Pilate, Marcus Aurelius, ca. Roman statesman, alludes to 175CE. 11’6” fate
Early Christian – Margin Made Center transept nave #2 narthex atrium apse aisles Plan and cutaway, Old Saint Peter’s, begun ca. 319. Fig. 4.4.
Early Christian – Margin Made Center #2• Adapt Roman basilica for growing congregations (Trajan’s Basilica Ulpia)• Nave, aisles, apse, atrium, narthex• Open colonnaded courtyard, columns along nave, clerestory• Transept new addition (housed relics & accomodated pilgrims)• Inside filled with frescoes, mosaics• Principle church of Christianity, pope as Peter’s successor Plan and cutaway, Old Saint Peter’s, begun ca. 319. Fig. 4.4. Apollodorus of Damascus, Forum of Trajan, 112CE.
Early Christian – Margin Made Center#3 Christ as the Good Shepherd mosaic, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, ca. 425. Fig. 4-8.
#3Early Christian – Margin Made Center• Mosaic, tesserae creates lunette (half Christ as the Good moon shape) Shepherd• Plain exterior of mosaic, mausoleum, colorful Mausoleum of Galla Placidia interior Ravenna, Italy,• Art advertises faith ca. 425. Fig. 4- 8.• Christ as Good Shepherd and emperor (clothed in gold and purple and haloed)• Imperial iconography Philoxenos• Illusionism (animals of Eretria, Battle of grouped in 3, three- Issus, ca. dimensional forms, 310BCE, landscape) indebted to Roman copy Greco-Roman art
Byzantine Art – Centralized PowerDates and Places:• 4th century to 1453 CE• Eastern Christian Roman Empire (division of empire into East and West in 395 CE)• Eastern Mediterranean, capital Constantinople (“New Rome”)People:• Emperor head of state & church (Justinian in 6th century)• Successors of ancient Roman emperors Map of Byzantine Empire during the 6th century• Supreme authority• God’s will on earth• Iconoclasm begins 8th century (way of maintaining power)
Byzantine Art – Centralized PowerThemes: Christ as Pantokrator• Icons of Christ, Virgin (Judge), mosaic, Mary, and Saints Church of the• Imperial portraits Dormition, ca. 1090–1100.Forms: Fig. 4-21.• Iconography over naturalism (Greco- Roman)• Stylized figures• Static, timeless• Flattened, gold backgrounds• Otherworldly & mystical (symbolic of divine power) Khafre Enthroned• Elaborate centrally Gizeh, Egypt planned churches, 4th Dynasty domes diorite, 5 ft 6” ca. 2500 BCE
Byzantine Art – Centralized Power 240’ wide #4 108’ diameter 270’ long 180’ tallANTHEMIUS OF TRALLES and ISIDORUS OF MILETUS, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Turkey, 532–537. Fig. 4-11.
Byzantine Art – Centralized Power #4 Cylindrical vs. Square baseInterior of Pantheon, Rome,ca. 120 CE ANTHEMIUS OF TRALLES and ISIDORUS OF MILETUS, interior, Hagia Sophia, 532–537. Fig. 4- 13.
Byzantine Art – Centralized Power• Built for Emperor Justinian (Golden Age)• Central plan with nave• Hemispherical dome over square base (crossing), monumentality of Pantheon (appears more weightless)• Made of brick, not concrete #4• Pendentives, semidomes, exterior buttresses transfer weight• Decorative columnar arcades in nave)• Mystical light (40 windows in dome)• Plain exterior, lavish interior• Separation by gender, clergy vs. laymen• Union of church & state Plan Hagia ANTHEMIUS OF Sophia TRALLES and ISIDORUS OF MILETUS, Hagia Orang Sophia, 532–537. Fig. Tangerine 4-11. Credit: Onur Öztürk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QD-sQAOv8E
Byzantine Art – Centralized Power Emperor Justinian Bishop Maximianus#5Holds breadin bowlfor EucharistChristogramchi (X)rho (P)iota (I)First letters ofChrist’s nameIn Greek Justinian, Bishop Maximianus, and attendants mosaic, San Vitale, ca. 547. Fig. 4-15.
Byzantine Art – Centralized Power Empress Theodora under imperial canopy#5Holds cup ofwine forEucharistParticipatesin ritual/processionfrom courtyardTowardsanctuary(movementtoward left) Three Magi Theodora and attendants mosaic, San Vitale, ca. 547.
Byzantine Art – Centralized Power• Seat of empire on Italian peninsula #5• Complex centrally-planned Justinian, church (plain exterior) Bishop• Mosaics of emperor and Maximianus empress and• Christ and Justinian united attendants through imperial mosaic, San iconography (purple robe, Vitale, ca. halo, 12 attendants) 547.• Stylized, timeless, weightless, frontal figures• Overlapping, unusual shifts in space• Abstracted to suggest invisible divine (spiritual vs natural)• Mosaics as proxies for Emperor and Empress• Presence of Theodora suggests her shared power
Ancient Rome vs. Byzantium Procession of the Imperial family, detail from south frieze, Ara Pacis Augustae 13 BCE, Roman Justinian, Bishop Maximianus, and attendants mosaic, San Vitale ca. 547. Fig. 4-15.
ByzantineArt –CentralizedPower #6 David composing the Psalms, Paris Psalter, ca. 950–970. Fig. 4-24.
Byzantine Art – Centralized Power• Following period of instability & iconoclasm in 8th #6 century• Classical revival (Macedonian Renaissance)• Direct translation of late Roman work• Classical-looking figures Sleeping Satyr• Illusionistic style (Barberini Faun) 230 BCE, 7’1”• David (like Orpheus) plays harp in Classical landscape• Classical muses (Echo behind column, Melody to his right)• Male reclining nude David composing the Psalms, (Classical) Paris Psalter, ca. 950–970. Fig. 4-24.
Syncretism in Contemporary ArtTrentonHancockFamilyPortrait(Mound Halfand Ape Half)2003pencil andacrylicon paper Scroll 41 minutes for the Art 21 segment on Trenton Doyle Hancock http://www.hulu.com/watch/65250#i0,p1,d0