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ARTH401: Early Christian and Byzantine Art

Unit 2: Art of the Early Byzantine Period   In this unit, we will build on what we learned in Unit 1 and turn to the earliest art of the Byzantine Empire, a Christian “new Rome” in the East.  This unit begins with Constantine’s founding of Constantinople in the fourth century and continues through the eighth century.  In this period, Christian art, while still inextricably linked to the Classical past, began to develop more of its own unique character.  The building of churches flourished in Byzantium as well as in Italy.  Meanwhile, icon painting emerged with the goal of depicting the “un-seeable,” ethereal qualities of the spiritual world, and religious art took on a newfound imperial glory.  By this stage, Byzantium had supplanted Rome and become the new epicenter of the “Western” world.

You may wish to refer to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Glossary for a list of key Byzantine terms. 

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit will take you 33.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 6 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2.1: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3.2: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3.3: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3.4: 2 hours

☐    Unit 2 Assignment: 5 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify Early Byzantine works of art, being able to provide date of creation, artist, patron, medium, and culture.
  • Recognize those features (stylistic and iconographic) that are typical of the arts of Early Byzantium.
  • Explain and discuss the history of the Early Byzantine Empire.
  • Describe the significance and function of art produced in the Early Byzantine period.
  • Identify and discuss the sources of influence important for the development of Early Byzantine art.
  • Describe the techniques and materials used to create works of art in the Early Byzantine period.
  • Explain the ways in which works of art reveal the social, religious, and political mores of Early Byzantine culture.

2.1 Introduction to Byzantine Art and Culture   - Reading: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Sarah Brooks’ “Byzantium (ca. 330-1453);” Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Glory of Byzantium: Publications for Educators: Explore and Learn: “Byzantine Art: An Introduction” and “The Early Byzantine Period: The ‘First Golden Age’ of Byzantium (324-730)” Link: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Sarah Brooks’ “Byzantium (ca. 330-1453)”; (HTML) Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Glory of Byzantium: Publications for Educators: Explore and Learn: “Byzantine Art: An Introduction” (HTML) and “The Early Byzantine Period: The ‘First Golden Age’ of Byzantium (324-730)” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of these three webpages for an introduction to Byzantine culture and art.  When you have finished reading “Byzantium (ca. 330-1453),” click on each of the images at the top of the page and read the accompanying text for an introduction to specific works of Byzantine art.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the Webpage above.

2.2 Art and Architecture under Justinian   - Reading: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Sarah Brooks’ “The Byzantine State under Justinian I (Justinian the Great)” Link: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Sarah Brooks’ “The Byzantine State under Justinian I (Justinian the Great)” (HTML) and School of Architecture.
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of these webpages for an overview of Byzantium during the reign of Justinian.  After you have read “The Byzantine State under Justinian I (Justinian the Great),” click on each of the images at the top of the page and read the accompanying text for specific examples of Byzantine art under Justinian.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the Webpage above.

  • Reading: lookuparchitecture.com: A Summary of Western Architecture: Early Christian and Byzantine, The Fall of Rome and the Rise of the Worshipping Community: "Justinian" Link: lookuparchitecture.com: A Summary of Western Architecture: Early Christian and Byzantine, The Fall of Rome and the Rise of the Worshipping Community: "Justinian" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entirety of this webpage for an overview of Byzantine architecture under the patronage of the Emperor Justinian.  Please also view the relevant images and accompanying text below the reading assignment on this page. 

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the Webpage above.

2.2.1 Constantinople   2.2.1.1 Hagia Sophia   - Reading: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Emma Wegner’s “Hagia Sophia, 532-37;” Columbia University: The Medieval Architecture Online Teaching Project: Professor Robert Ousterhout’s “Hagia Sophia;” Columbia University: The Medieval Architecture Online Teaching Project’s “A Description of Hagia Sophia Written in 563 by Paul the Silentiary” Links: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Emma Wegner’s “Hagia Sophia, 532-37;” (HTML) Columbia University: The Medieval Architecture Online Teaching Project: Italy, Rome: Professor Robert Ousterhout’s “Hagia Sophia;” (HTML) Columbia University: The Medieval Architecture Online Teaching Project’s “Description of Hagia Sophia Written in 563 by Paul the Silentiary” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of these webpages, closely examining all accompanying images.  For Professor Ousterhout’s “Hagia Sophia” webpage, read the full page and then select the following pages from the drop-down menu “Architectural Precedents,” “Setting & Function,” “Groundplan & Elevation,” “Dome,” “Innovative Trends,” and “Symbolic Resonance.”  For all of these pages, be sure to click on the embedded images for larger versions.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the Webpages above.

  • Web Media: Sacred Destinations: Helen Betts’ “Photo: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul” and Smithsonian Magazine: “Inside Hagia Sophia” Link: Sacred Destinations: “Photo: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul” (HTML) and Smithsonian Magazine: “Inside Hagia Sophia”  (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please visit both websites and explore all of the images available.  Look through all of the images on the Sacred Destinations image gallery, which will be particularly useful to you as you listen to the assigned audio lecture.  For the virtual tour, be sure to click on the link for each of the five locations, and look around thoroughly to get a sense for how the building looks in person.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the Webpage above.

  • Lecture: Apple.com: Whitney Humanities Center: Robert Nelson’s “Hagia Sophia: An Alternative Biblical Architecture of Light” Link: Apple.com: Whitney Humanities Center: Robert Nelson’s “Hagia Sophia: An Alternative Biblical Architecture of Light” (iTunes U)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down the webpage until you reach the title “Hagia Sophia: An Alternative Biblical Architecture of Light.” Please listen to the entirety of this audio lecture (56 minutes).  Review images of Hagia Sophia as you listen to the lecture.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.2 Ravenna   2.2.2.1 Mosaics in Ravenna   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Mosaic Decoration in Byzantine Ravenna" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Mosaic Decoration in Byzantine Ravenna" (PDF)

 Instructions: Please read this overview of mosaic decoration in
Byzantine Ravenna.

2.2.2.2 San Vitale   - Reading: Sacred Destinations: Holly Hayes’s “San Vitale Basilica—Ravenna, Italy;” SUNY College at Oneonta: History of European Medieval Art: Dr. Allen Farber’s “San Vitale” Links: Sacred Destinations: Holly Hayes’s “San Vitale Basilica—Ravenna, Italy;” (HTML) SUNY College at Oneonta: History of European Medieval Art: Dr. Allen Farber’s “San Vitale;” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of these webpages.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: Smarthistory: Dr. Allen Farber’s “Byzantine Art: Justinian and His Attendants” Link: Smarthistory: Dr. Allen Farber’s“Byzantine Art: Justinian and His Attendants”(YouTube)
     
    Also Available in:

    MPEG
     
    Instructions: Please watch the short, embedded video (10 minutes) with speakers Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker on the “Byzantine Art: Justinian and His Attendants.”
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Sacred Destinations: “Photos: San Vitale Basilica, Ravenna, Italy” Link: Sacred Destinations: “Photos: San Vitale Basilica, Ravenna, Italy” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please look through all of the images on the Sacred Destinations image gallery to get a sense for how the building looks in person and for a sense of context for the mosaic images.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.2.3 Sant’Apollinare in Classe   - Reading: Sacred Destinations: Holly Hayes’s “Sant’Apollinare in Classe—Ravenna, Italy” Link: Sacred Destinations: Holly Hayes’s “Sant’Apollinare in Classe—Ravenna, Italy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of this webpage for an overview of this church.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: Sacred Destinations: Photos: Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, Italy” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

    Submit Materials

2.3 Icons and Ivories   2.3.1 Byzantine Icons   - Reading: Rollins College: Russian Painting: Dr. Alexander Boguslawski’s Russian Painting: Icons “Understanding Icons” and Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Sarah Brooks’ “Icons and Iconoclasm in Byzantium” Links: Rollins College: Russian Painting: Dr. Alexander Boguslawski’s Russian Painting: Icons “Understanding Icons” and Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Sarah Brooks’ “Icons and Iconoclasm in Byzantium” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of these webpages for an overview of icons.  On Dr. Boguslawski’s webpage, click the link at the left “Understanding Icons” to reach the correct section of the site.  When you have finished reading the “Icons and Iconoclasm in Byzantium” webpage, click on each of the images at the top of the page and read the accompanying to see examples of icons and iconoclastic art.
 
Terms of Use: "Understanding Icons" has been reposted by the kind permission of Alexander Boguslawski.  Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the copyright holder.  Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.3.1.1 Early Icons   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation's "Early Icons" Link: The Saylor Foundation's "Early Icons" (PDF)

 Instructions: Please read this overview of early icon painting.

2.3.2 The Monastery of Saint Catherine at Mount Sinai   - Reading: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557): Publications for Educators: Explore and Learn: The Monastery of Saint Catherine: “Introduction” and Belmont University: Dr. Joseph Byrne’s “Sinai Icons” Links: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557): Publications for Educators: Explore and Learn: The Monastery of Saint Catherine: “Introduction” (HTML) and Belmont University: Dr. Joseph Byrne’s “Sinai Icons” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entirety of the “Introduction” of “The Monastery of Saint Catherine” for an overview of this important center of Byzantine art.  Be sure to click “next” at the bottom of each page to see all eleven of the pages in this section.  Read through all of “Sinai Icons” for examples of Early Byzantine icon paintings produced at The Monastery of Saint Catherine.  Click on each of the images for a larger view.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the Webpage above.

  • Web Media: The J. Paul Getty Museum: Past Exhibitions: “Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai” Link: The J. Paul Getty Museum: Past Exhibitions: “Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please navigate through the entirety of this site for an introduction to this important historical site.  Be sure to navigate through all of the pages in each section, “Holy Image,” “Holy Space,” and “Holy Site.”  After you have navigated through all of the pages, read all of the text, look at all of the images, and watch the short, embedded video (10 minutes) by clicking on “Video Excursion” at the left side of the site.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the Webpage above.

  • Web Media: Patrimonium-mundi.org's "Saint Catherine Area" The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

    Submit Materials

2.3.3 Byzantine Ivories   2.3.3.1 General Overview   - Reading: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Edmund C. Ryder’s “Byzantine Ivories” and Qantara, Mediterranean Heritage: Materials and Techniques: “Ivory and Bone in Byzantium” Links: Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Edmund C. Ryder’s “Byzantine Ivories” (HTML) and Qantara, Mediterranean Heritage: Materials and Techniques: “Ivory and Bone in Byzantium” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the entirety of “Byzantine Ivories” for an introduction to Byzantine ivory work.  After you have read the entire webpage, click on each of the images at the top of the page and read the accompanying text.  Please also read “Ivory and Bone in Byzantium” in its entirety.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.3.3.2 Works of Art   - Reading: The British Museum: Explore: Highlights: “Ivory Panel Showing an Archangel;” Louvre Museum: Collection: Curatorial Departments: Decorative Arts: Early Middle Ages: Bardoz Marie-Cécile’s “Leaf of a Diptych: The Emperor Triumphant;” Qantara, Mediterranean Heritage: “Barberini Ivory” Links: The British Museum: Explore: Highlights: “Ivory Panel Showing an Archangel;” (HTML) Louvre Museum: Collection: Curatorial Departments: Decorative Arts: Early Middle Ages: Bardoz Marie-Cécile’s “Leaf of a Diptych: The Emperor Triumphant;” (HTML) Qantara, Mediterranean Heritage: “Barberini Ivory” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read these webpages for an overview of two of the most famous extant Byzantine ivories.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Lecture: Smarthistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Stephen Zucker’s “Ivory Panel with Archangel” Link: Smarthistory: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Stephen Zucker’s “Ivory Panel with Archangel” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please watch the entirety of this short video lecture (5 minutes).
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.3.4 Iconoclasm   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Byzantine Iconoclastic Controversy,” Catholic Encyclopedia: Kevin Knight’s “Iconoclasm;” Professor Paul Stephenson: Translated Sources: “Iconoclasm;” Qantara, Mediterranean Heritage’s “Iconoclast Decoration of Three Naxos Churches” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

[Submit Materials](/contribute/)

Unit 2 Assignment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Writing Assessment: Formal Analysis of a Byzantine Icon” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Writing Assessment: Formal Analysis of a Byzantine Icon
 
Instructions: Please carefully read through the assessment overview and instructions and view all required images and reading assignments to complete this assignment.  When you are done, check your work against The Saylor Foundation’s “Guide to Responding to Assessment 2.”