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AP Art History - Byzantine Art and Architecture

AP Art History - Byzantine Art and Architecture
empire so the

byzantine

empire spanned quite a long time almost a millennium and it actually emerged when the roman empire was split into two separate halves after it was sacked around 410 ce so the western half kind of descended more or less into chaos there were lots of barbarian groups like the magyars um that were coming in from the east and pillaging a lot of these areas so there wasn't that much development happening and one what ended up happening in a lot of these areas is that a lot of knowledge was forgotten and it took a quite a bit of time before a lot of these localities started regaining back that knowledge so the eastern half actually flourished under the emperor constantine so you might remember from early antiquity lecture last time that constantinople is founded right here um in modern day turkey and this is basically the new capital of the roman empire which at this point has become christian um so it is built on top of the ancient greek city of byzantium um so byzantium then becomes constantinople so the people that we call

byzantine

s did not really identify themselves as

byzantine

s they probably would have thought of themselves as christian romans or just romans as constancy as constantine himself was roman a lot of the traditions that had actually been established in ancient rome actually were carried over to constantinople and a lot of elements of culture were quite similar to the way that they were in rome so there were lots of like like the...
ap art history   byzantine art and architecture
systems of government for example we had lots of elements of

architecture

carrying over we had a lineage of emperors these things were continuing to flourish for quite a bit of time in constantinople even after rome proper has been sacked so um the

byzantine

empire was quite successful they spread um throughout western europe through conquest and military activity they were all so missionaries that were branching out from the

byzantine

empire and engaging in um kind of missionary work and converting other people to christianity and of course they were also trading with others especially along that silk road so in the years before the renaissance travelers from the west would actually visit byzantium and constantinople and they were just utterly shocked by how advanced it was in comparison to what they had developed more recently in the west and a lot of these technologies that had been lost in the west for example like domes started to become rediscovered especially during the italian renaissance which we'll cover in a couple of weeks so christianity was present in both eastern and western regions of western europe but the east developed a more orthodox or rather like strict and canonized version of christianity so vestiges of this variation are still pretty heavily evident in the greek orthodox tradition today in the

byzantine

empire it's important to remember that the church and the state are one entity so they have an enormous amount of power and oftentimes these...
ap art history   byzantine art and architecture
um these emperors are considered religious officials in their own right within their communities and because the church and the state are one entity they have all this power they are also commissioning vast amounts of work interestingly at this point in time creating artwork is considered a form of piety so it's a way of expressing your devotion so it was actually considered a religious experience and a service in the glory of god when you were creating an artwork that was affiliated with the bible or christianity so um eventually the

byzantine

empire by was weakened for several reasons one of which was the conquest of the ottomans eventually they succumbed to the ottoman insurgents around 1450 ce even after this however a lot of the artistic traditions from the

byzantine

empire persisted a lot of the ottomans that then came into byzantium and converted it to constant or converted it to istanbul which is still known as today would actually turn the churches into mosques which we'll talk about next class a mosque is a place of worship for um muslims so this city today is still like a huge metropolitan center in modern-day turkey it's this vastly complex city with old

architecture

as well as new

architecture

so in terms of art the

byzantine

era is quite vast um but it is typically separated into three kind of distinct sub periods um the one thing that you should remember to distinguish this period these periods are the icon is the iconoclastic controversy so in the...
ap art history   byzantine art and architecture
early

byzantine

there was a lot of icons being created so an icon is basically an image that reminds the holder of their faith so oftentimes it would be like a panel or some sort of object that usually depicted an image of jesus there's a lot of them that have the madonna and child in them it's basically like a devotional object and rich people could afford really nice icons and people who were more frugal would be able to afford like smaller and less lavish ones so the iconoclastic controversy is one of the reasons that we don't have a ton of art from the early

byzantine

era so um quite a bit of time into the

byzantine

empire there was a lot of controversy happening a lot of religious officials were noticing that people would worship these icons um rather than the the faith of christianity itself so the icon would occupy a place of power um that the church kind of was like hey that's mine you should be coming to our building so they called for the destruction of existing religious icons and this was the iconoclastic movement so eventually um the

byzantine

s kind of got over this phase and they had all of these empty space in churches and they had all these like patrons that were like we want to have icons because we're allowed to have them again so there was this massive revival that happened in the middle in late

byzantine

where there were a lot of these icons created again and then there was a lot of redecoration that was happening in churches so um the...
empire was weakened by the crusades and eventually fell under the power of the ottomans in the 1450s so we went over last time some essential church vocabulary that you should know a lot of these words that you're seeing on this central plan are similar to the ones that you're seeing in the axial plan i have color coded the labels to kind of show you how there's similarities between these two plans even though their overall form is different so remember that the axial plan is running along one central axis it's usually quite symmetrical along this axis right here so you have this side and then you have it flip over and it's to this side with the central plan typically these churches tend to be more round in shape they still have a narthex which functions as the entrance of the church but instead of having a linear nave um and then the side aisles flanking it in a parallel way the nave is kind of like the central area of the church right here kind of like the nucleus and then the side aisles go all the way around the structure um to create this continuous ambulatory or walkway the apps is usually an offshoot of one of the aisles it could be on the other side of the narthex it could be slightly off-center it just depends on the church but this is still kind of like the terminal end of the church usually the area that's close to where the sermon is held so they're very similar in terms of our artworks we're going to start out with haya sophia...
sohaya sophia literally translates to holy wisdom it is one of the most famous religious buildings in the world it is actually still in use today um it currently functions as a museum however just recently in the past couple of months there has been some discussion about allowing um religious practice to happen in the highest sophia again so there's updates that are continuously being released on that so one of the most striking features of the hiya sofia is its massive dome which you can see right here from the exterior and then from the interior here so this was the largest dome in the world for quite a quite a long amount of time and one of the things that was so striking about it were these windows that surrounded the base of the dome so there are 40 of them and there's actually gold mosaics that are placed inside the arches so you can imagine that when the sun is shining down and the light is coming through these windows and reflecting off of the gold that it's creating this almost seamless halo around the dome and a lot of scholars that visited the highest sophia were just like completely flabbergasted by this they basically thought that the dome was floating so this was very it's awe-inspiring in terms of like having a profound religious experience which is one of the reasons that this building was super famous um you'll notice that this dome is um it's somewhat similar to the one that we're seeing in the parthenon but instead of having a...
cylindrical base um where it's just going straight down on either side it's actually like kind of floating on top of a squarish shape and then there's these little triangles that are coming down from each corner of that square so these are called podentives right here that's a word that will come up a couple of times in the ap curriculum like many other churches of this era the exterior is relatively plain in comparison to the interior which is covered in dozens if not hundreds of square yards of gold tiles and precious stone mosaics it really is quite striking there's also a lot of influence from greek and roman art on the interior of the cathedral you can see a couple of column capitals and little arches um in the side aisles right here um so this is actually the third iteration of ohio sofia it was built and then destroyed twice in the early part of the

byzantine

empire by riots and then it was finally built and then preserved a third time so one of the things that you'll notice when you look at the ground plan of the highest sophia is that it doesn't really fit an axial plan or a central plan there's kind of elements of both in here which makes it kind of funky so it really is kind of like an outstanding building of its own that would would actually go on to inspire lots of other constructions both in the west and in the east for generations to come so um of course during the 1450s uh the hiya sophia which originally functioned as a church...
a place of worship for christians it was taken over by the ottoman empire so they converted it into a mosque so one of the things that mosques require are minarets so minarets are these pencil-shaped towers that are flanking the four corners of the structure um and typically minarets are used to call people to prayer so there will be a dude that goes up to like one of the the crow's nests up here and he will sing and chant and basically call people to prayer being like okay it's prayer time so a couple of other modifications were made to the interior of the haya sophia after the 1450s one of which was the addition of a mihrab so a mihrab is a structure that is found in most mosques and it is basically a a highly decorated wall niche that points toward the direction of mecca so for muslims this is basically an indication of the direction in which to pray so basically one of the tenements of islam is that you pray towards mecca five times a day so this is basically like a compass on the inside of the highest sophia there's also these massive medallions on the interior that have been mounted up here and the um by the claire story windows that have calligraphy on them so there is a prohibition in most kind of like current practicing bodies of islam that um basically bans the depiction of sentient beings so usually humans and some animals so you don't really see images of the prophet muhammad for example virtually anywhere in the 21st century when it comes to um...
islamic imagery so calligraphy in a lot of ways is filling the the whole that is left by that and they are oftentimes imbued with lots of spiritual power because they are phrases and words that are taken directly from the quran which is the um holy book of islam so we'll talking a lot more about mikrobs and calligraphy and mosque

architecture

later so this is a fascinating video that was produced by ted ed a couple of years ago that talks about the

history

of the hiya sophia in like a beautiful graphic format so i thought we would take some time to watch it today they say that if walls could talk each building would have a story to tell but few would tell so many fascinating stories in so many different voices as the highest sophia or holy wisdom perched at the crossroads of continents and cultures it has seen massive changes from the name of the city where it stands to its own structure and purpose and today the elements from each era stand ready to tell their tales to any visitor who will listen even before you arrive at the highest sophia the ancient fortifications hint at the strategic importance of the surrounding city founded as byzantium by greek colonists in 657 bce and successfully renamed as augusta antonia new rome and constantinople as it was conquered re-conquered destroyed and rebuilt by various greek persian and roman rulers over the following centuries and it was within these walls that the first megala ecclesia or great church was built in the 4th...
century though it was soon burned to the ground in riots it established the location for the region's main religious structure for centuries to come near the entrance the marble stones with reliefs are the last reminders of the second church built in 415 ce it was destroyed during the nika riots of 532 when angry crowds at a chariot race nearly overthrew the emperor justinian the first having barely managed to retain power he resolved to rebuild the church on a grander scale and five years later the edifice you see before you was completed as you step inside the stones of the foundation and walls murmur tales from their homelands of egypt and syria while columns taken from the temple of artemis recall a more ancient past runic inscriptions carved by the vikings of the emperor's elite guard carry the lore of distant northern lands but your attention is caught by the grand dome representing the heavens reaching over 50 meters high and over 30 meters in diameter and ringed by windows around its base the golden dome appears suspended from heaven light reflecting through its interior beneath its grandiose symbolism the sturdy reinforcing corinthian columns brought from lebanon after the original dome was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 558 ce quietly remind you of its fragility and the engineering skills such a marvel requires if a picture is worth a thousand words the mosaics from the next several centuries have the most to say not only about their biblical themes...
but also the

byzantine

emperors who commissioned them often depicted along with christ but beneath their loud and clear voices one hears the haunting echoes of the damaged and missing mosaics and icons desecrated and looted during the latin occupation in the fourth crusade within the floor the tomb inscription of enrico dendalo the venetian ruler who commanded the campaign is a stark reminder of those 57 years that hayes sophia spent as a roman catholic church before returning to its orthodox roots upon the

byzantine

reconquest but it would not remain a church for long weakened by the crusades constantinople fell to the ottomans in 1453 and would be known as istanbul thereafter after allowing his soldiers three days of pillage sultan mehmet ii entered the building though heavily damaged its grandeur was not lost on the young sultan who immediately rededicated it to allah proclaiming that it would be the new imperial mosque the four minarets built over the next century are the most obvious sign of this era serving as architectural supports in addition to their religious purpose but there are many others ornate candle holders relate suleiman's conquest of hungary while giant calligraphy disks hung from the ceiling remind visitors for the first four khalifs who followed muhammad though the building you see today still looks like a mosque it is now a museum a decision made in 1935 by kamal ataturk the modernizing first president of turkey following the ottoman empire's...
collapse it was this secularization that allowed for removal of the carpets hiding the marble floor decorations and the plaster covering the christian mosaics ongoing restoration work has allowed the multiplicity of voices in hayes sophia's long

history

to be heard again after centuries of silence but conflict remains hidden mosaics cry out from beneath islamic calligraphy valuable pieces of

history

that cannot be uncovered without destroying others meanwhile calls sound from both muslim and christian communities to return the building to its former religious purposes the story of the divine wisdom may be far from over but one can only hope that the many voices residing there will be able to tell their part for years to come alrighty we're moving on to our next work for the day this is sam vitale um in ravenna italy so during this particular point in time the 6th century ravenna was under the control of the ostrogoths so you'll recall that i talked about how the roman empire basically collapsed and was separated into the eastern western halves so italy was in the western half and was basically under the control of these various barbarian hordes the ostrogoths were a germanic group that was one of those communities so the city was actually never visited by justinian who at this point in time was the emperor of the ottoman empire however there are still um aspects of this building that honor justinian and his wife theodore and indicate the power and influence that...
they had even outside of the strict borders of their empire so this building is quite unusual is octagonal which means it has eight sides like a stop sign and it's essentially planned church so again we're having kind of like a central um like point in this a central focus and then everything is radiating out from the center so like other churches from this time the exterior is relatively plain while the interior is a lot more lavish and decorated however this church is a little bit less modest than santa sabina which we saw in the late antique period as at this point in time we're starting to see patrons intervening and donating vast sums of money to create these larger and more impressive edifices so there's several mosaics on the inside of this building it's actually a very important church when it comes to

byzantine

architecture

i believe it is the the last surviving church from the early

byzantine

era so there's a couple of examples of mosaics on the inside that we're going to be covering a little bit later but they're indicating the patronage of the building as well as important religious and historical narratives there's lots of windows in the structure to illuminate this interior space and of course we have some spoolia as well some columns that were taken from other structures and then used in this building so this building act as an arturium which is basically a fancy word for a place where a martyr died so in this case it's...
san san fetalis but we don't really know which one because there were multiple saint vitalises that existed at or before this period so we're not entirely sure um which one it is which is kind of awkward so here are the justinian and theodore mosaics these are the most famous mosaics on the interior of the building we'll cover justinian first so justinian who is the emperor is showing me here wearing tyrion purple which is this purple that's oftentimes associated with the emperors it's made from the pig it's made from a pigment pigment that is sourced from the tyrion snail which is very difficult to harvest and the pigment is very highly valued which is why it was only reserved for members of the ruling class um yet what you'll see on his left is the military and then on the right we have the clergy and he is operating at the center as basically the commander of both the religious aspects of the empire and the military aspects of the empire so it's creating this very balanced stable composition here that is intended to emulate the the intended stability of this empire one of the things that you'll notice a lot in

byzantine

artwork is that the spaces are very shallow you're not really seeing much of a an effort to create atmospheric perspective so basically everything in the image is kind of flattened into one plane and the backgrounds are usually kind of of bland and plain and in other cases they're um they're quite kind of like...
geometric and flattened and there's not really a sense of like the space has depth to it so oftentimes one of the ways that manifests most obviously are these overlapping feet if you see figures with overlapping feet like this chances are that it's

byzantine

or later so um he justinian in addition to having this tyrion purple is also heavily ornamented in gold and he's also bearing a halo so that is symbolizing like this semi-divine um status that the emperor has as well as his royalty he's also wearing the crown he is bearing a shallow patent or a bull for the eucharist so for those of you who have not been to church the eucharist is basically the a reference to the time in the bible where jesus said like this bread is my body and this blood is my wine sometimes in certain church services you'll like drink grape juice or eat like a cracker wafer to kind of symbolize like the body and blood i probably did not explain that very well so what you'll also notice too is that the faces are quite standardized you're not seeing a lot of very very defining features um especially in the attendance up here and in the military men um so we're but there are still like some attempts at creating kind of like different um hairstyles for example and of course the crown i'm just staying so in the theodore and attendance we're seeing a kind of parallel narrative to justinian in terms of having um kind of like the posse on either side um uh theodora has a...
a robe on that is again tyrion purple and on the hem of the rope here we have an image of the three magi who are those three dudes that were chilling out and saw the star in bethlehem and then saw baby jesus and gave him all the fun stuff what you'll notice is that she's not in the absolute dead center of this composition so that's somewhat suggestive that she's not having as central of a role as justinian is however she does have a lot of similarities to him she does she's robed in purple and has a crown for example and then she also has a halo similar to justinian she's also bearing a uh chalice right here from mass and then she's about to go behind this curtain right here probably to wash her hands and then go to a religious ceremony so ablution or hand washing or washing of any kind is typically something that one does before they enter a holy space so these images are essentially intended to convey that justinian and theodora are regular participants in religion while also assuming a ruling role in society this work is called the vienna genesis it is one of the earliest surviving manuscripts of the bible that is known what you'll notice when you look at these pages is that the um the vellum or animal skin that was used to create them is this sort of brown color now so the original pigment was intended to be purple which is a color that is oftentimes associated with royalty so there's been an assumption made by our historians that this...
manuscript was owned by somebody extremely wealthy one of the other things that is indicating the wealth of the patron is the use of silver to illuminate this writing which is in greek so of course the silver has oxidized over time but you can imagine that at one point that this text would have been particularly shiny what you'll see is that there's a somewhat of a blending between classical um conventions and

byzantine

conventions you'll see classical conventions in the use of these like roman colonnades and you also have this reclining nude figure that's chilling out by the river she's actually like a symbol of the river sort of like a river goddess which is something that's very roman but there's also elements of

byzantine

art conventions one of which of course is this extremely shallow picture plane we have this kind of like fortified city over here that's floating in the corner so there everything has kind of been brought into the same plane and it's relatively flat so that's one of the conventions that we see a lot in

byzantine

art so an estimated 192 pages of this manuscript existed and only 48 of them survive so the events that are illustrated in these two artworks that we're going to be looking at are part of genesis which is the first book of the bible talking usually about like the creation of the earth as well as adam and eve and a couple of their like relatively immediate descendants so the act of illuminating a...
manuscript is basically like handwriting and and hand painting all the elements so at this point in time we don't have the gutenberg press yet we won't for several hundred years so anytime something is written it takes considerable time and resources to do that so not that many people are literate at this point in time because it doesn't really make sense to be literate so this piece also employs continuous narrative which we have seen before you'll recall that continuous narrative um is particularly noticeable when you see the same figure depicted more than once so we have rebecca here showed once and then she's also showed here so this is the first part of the narrative and then the second part of the narrative here so in this particular narrative right here basically what's happening is that abraham wants to find a wife for his son isaac so he basically sends out eliezer who is his servant to go find his son a wife so he ends up um in trouble and he's thirsty and it turns out that rebecca is the one that comes to his aid so this was basically offered as an example of god intervening to assist abraham in this particular narrative over here we are also seeing continuous narrative offered in a somewhat like register like pattern which is something that you would typically see in um ancient greece in ancient rome so um jacob has several wives and maids and then he also has 11 children so you can kind of see an abbreviation of the children over here...
they're kind of just like little heads they're also crossing a roman looking bridge so again we're seeing a combination of roman elements and

byzantine

elements here so in this particular narrative um jacob is traveling with his family and is confronted by an angel who strikes him in the hip so the angel then declares that jacob's name is now israel i'm still trying to figure out exactly what the significance of this is myself so um what you'll see in both of these images is again this flattening of the picture playing but also um more subtle elements of roman conventions that are being put in there which is very typical of

byzantine

art our last artwork for the day is the virgin or theotokos and child between the saints theodore and george this is an example of an icon so it is an image that is composed on a piece of wood you can actually see some little holes at the very bottom here so you can see where it might have actually been nailed or held in a certain position like on a wall or on an altar it is created using an acoustic method so encaustic is basically a fancy word for colored wax so the pigment is suspended in wax and then the artist will then use the wax to paint onto the surface so um this particular icon was placed in a monastery which is basically like a place where monks live so the figures you'll notice are very stiff and front-facing this is a very

byzantine

feature you rarely see

byzantine

figures in profile for example and these...
two angels here who are seeing a kind of a three-quarter view are highly unusual so the figures in the foreground are staring straight forward again this is fairly typical of

byzantine

artwork we have mary here kind of having a far away look in her eyes we also have the hand of god emerging from the top of this image coming down you can kind of see that mary and jesus are posed directly below the hand of god this is a very strategic position here and then mary and jesus are depicted in the middle um the warrior saints as well as mary and jesus and the angels all have these round halos behind them which are eliminated in gold which would make them very shiny um what is interesting about this piece is that the faces are rendered quite differently um so there is a theory among art historians that this piece actually involved the work of several different artists that would like work on separate pieces of the work so one of the things that you'll notice a lot in

byzantine

artwork in particular as well that's kind of a quirky convention is that jesus oftentimes looks like a middle-aged man he'll have like a receding hairline or his face and body will look quite adult-like um and this is something that was frequently used and actually encouraged by the church to to show jesus christ as wise beyond his years so there's several other reasons that are behind like why babies don't really look like babies until the renaissance era in art and there's lots of...
fascinating videos on youtube if you want to go down that rabbit hole