Byzantine Art and Architecture
- LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0042
- LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0042
Byzantine art and architecture may be defined as the artistic production of the eastern Mediterranean region that developed into an orthodox set of societies after the relocation of the Roman capital to Constantinople in 330 CE. While there is a debate about the use of the term “Roman” for emperors as late as Justinian (r. 526–565), the churches and their decoration in Ravenna, as well as the 6th-century purple Bible and Gospel manuscripts clearly show the beginnings of the new iconographic and stylistic concerns that we call “Byzantine.” While Byzantium itself was conquered when the capital fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the types of buildings and the traditions of monumental and portable arts continued on, even to the present day in places such as Mount Athos. Thus it is hard to define the era with clear-cut beginning and endpoints. It is similarly difficult to define Byzantine architecture and art in geographic terms. The quintessential middle Byzantine church type, the cross-in-square, continues in Russian churches in contemporary times. Elements of style in icon painting are preserved as well. The orthodox traditions that are expressed in these artistic forms cover much of eastern Europe; autocephalous churches form part of the orthodox confession despite the differences in language as well as the addition of some local saints. Areas included in what has been called the “Byzantine Commonwealth” include Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Russia, and parts of Albania and Romania, among others. The relationship of the style to Italy has never been satisfactorily explored. Byzantine art and architecture have largely been studied in terms of religious buildings, decoration, reception, and liturgical use. New approaches such as the study of gender, light, and sound (both vocal and musical) in Byzantine art are yielding significant results. Recently, secular arts have begun to form a focus of examination. New technologies have allowed closer viewing of objects such as ivories; modern approaches have also been applied to the consideration of Byzantine buildings and artifacts, yielding innovative interpretations. Although a tiny fraction of what we believe was created still exists, Byzantine art has continued to fascinate viewers as seen by a number of recent exhibitions worldwide.
Several introductory surveys offer overviews, including of architecture, which can be used as textbooks in undergraduate courses. These also contain bibliographies that may serve as a starting point for more advanced students’ research. Both older and newer texts, such as Talbot Rice 1997, Lazarev 1967, Beckwith 1986, and Mathews 1998, sometimes include specialized sections relating to the author’s interests; each includes something the other does not. More recent texts, for example Lowden 1997, reflect ideological trends, such as a preponderance of interest in context, while largely ignoring style, whereas others, for example Cormack 2000, contain miniessays on certain themes. Durand 1999 offers very beautiful photographs that make the field attractive and allow detailed study of certain monuments. Vasilakē-Karakatsanē 1996 offers a wide array of bibliographic entries for beginning reading and research at all levels.
Beckwith, John. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. 4th ed. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1986.
This chronological survey discusses periods by what the author identifies as a major theme of each age. Exclusively black-and-white illustrations include all media. Architecture is mentioned only as the setting for wall decoration, as the series includes a separate volume on architecture. An unusual feature is the inclusion of contemporary Italian art.
Cormack, Robin. Byzantine Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Somewhat less accessible than similar texts. Within a chronological framework it delves into issues such as the transformation of the sanctuary, of interest to more advanced art history students. Discusses architecture briefly, with few pictures and no plans. Illustrated with black-and-white and good color photographs. For upper-level surveys.
Durand, Jannic. Byzantine Art. Paris: Finest SA/Éditions Pierre Terrail, 1999.
An oversized survey with beautiful photographs, mostly in color. Comprehensive, covering all 4th–14th century media, with plans and details. Occasional thematic subheadings (such as, “Luxury and Crafts: Imperial Prestige”) give understanding and context to objects. For everyone.
Lazarev, Victor Nikitich. Storia della pittura bizantina. Turin, Italy: G. Einaudi, 1967.
A translation from the original Russian multivolume work, this early survey is particularly strong on middle Byzantine work as well as later icons from Russia. While numerous, illustrations are small and not particularly crisp. Extensive footnotes make this work useful for further research.
Lowden, John. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. London: Phaidon, 1997.
A comprehensive survey with good plans and photographs. This volume is very strong on iconography and historical context. The manuscript section is comprehensive. There is a dearth of discussion of style throughout the volume, however, limiting its usefulness as a classroom text.
Mathews, Thomas F. Byzantium: From Antiquity to the Renaissance. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998.
This book is arranged thematically, covering topics such as Constantinople and the secular domestic world. Architecture and the arts are integrated within each chapter. It incorporates the most up-to-date research; examples include the development of the icon from earliest times and the reinterpretation of Cappadocian complexes as secular rather than monastic.
Talbot Rice, David. Art of the Byzantine Era. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
While somewhat out of date, this survey includes several unusual sections, including Armenian and Georgian art and architecture as well as late Byzantine and Russian art. Includes discussion of context. Surprising number of textiles included. Black-and-white and color plates of varying quality illustrate this volume for all readers.
Vasilakē-Karakatsanē, Agapē. Bibliographie de l’art byzantin et post-byzantin. Athens, Greece: Comité national hellénique de l’association internationale d’études du sud-est européen, 1966.
This resource includes indexes of major periodicals and bibliographies by topic most directly relevant to the study of art and architecture and others useful but often not included in this type of collection, such as prosopography and topography.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Adornment, Dress, and African Arts of the Body
- Ancient Egyptian Art
- Ancient Pueblo (Anasazi) Art
- Angkor and Environs
- Art and Architecture in the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary
- Art and Propaganda
- Art of Medieval Iberia
- Art of the Crusader Period in the Levant
- Art of the Dogon
- Art of the Mamluks
- Art of the Plains Peoples
- Arts of Senegambia
- Arts of the Pacific Islands
- Assyrian Art and Architecture
- Australian Aboriginal Art
- Aztec Empire, Art of the
- Babylonian Art and Architecture
- Bamana Arts and Mande Traditions
- Barbizon Painting
- Bartolomeo Ammannati
- Bernini, Gian Lorenzo
- Bohemia and Moravia, Renaissance and Rudolphine Art of
- Borromini, Francesco
- Brazilian Art and Architecture, Post-independence
- Burkina Art and Performance
- Byzantine Art and Architecture
- Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da
- Carracci, Annibale
- Chaco Canyon and Other Early Art in the North American Sou...
- Chicana/o Art
- Chimú Art and Architecture
- Colonial Art of New Granada (Colombia)
- Conceptual Art and Conceptualism
- Contemporary Art
- Courbet, Gustave
- Czech Modern and Contemporary Art
- Daumier, Honoré
- David, Jacques-Louis
- Delacroix, Eugène
- Design, Garden and Landscape
- Destruction in Art
- Dürer, Albrecht
- Early Christian Art
- Early Medieval Architecture in Western Europe
- Eighteenth-Century Europe
- Ethiopia, Art History of
- European Art, Historiography of
- European Medieval Art, Otherness in
- Eyck, Jan van
- Festivals in West Africa
- French Impressionism
- Gender and Art in the Middle Ages
- Gender and Art in the Renaissance
- Gender and Art in the 17th Century
- Giotto di Bondone
- Gothic Architecture
- Gothic Art in Italy
- Goya y Lucientes, Francisco José
- Great Zimbabwe and its Legacy
- Greek Art and Architecture
- Greenberg, Clement
- Géricault, Théodore
- Iconography in the Western World
- Installation Art
- Islamic Art and Architecture in North Africa and the Iberi...
- Japanese Architecture
- Japanese Ceramics
- Jewish Art, Ancient
- Jewish Art, Medieval to Early Modern
- Jewish Art, Modern and Contemporary
- Jones, Inigo
- Kahlo, Frida
- Lastman, Pieter
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Luca della Robbia (or the Della Robbia Family)
- Luisa Roldán
- Markets and Auctions, Art
- Marxism and Art
- Maya Art
- Medieval Art and Liturgy (recent approaches)
- Medieval Art and the Cult of Saints
- Medieval Art in Scandinavia, 400-800
- Medieval Textiles
- Meiji Painting
- Merovingian Period Art
- Moche Art
- Modern Sculpture
- Monet, Claude
- Māori Art and Architecture
- Museums in Australia
- Museums of Art in the West
- Nasca Art
- Native North American Art, Pre-Contact
- New Media Art
- New Spain, Art and Architecture
- Olmec Art
- Pacific Art, Contemporary
- Palladio, Andrea
- Parthenon, The
- Performance Art
- Perspective from the Renaissance to Post-Modernism, Histor...
- Peter Paul Rubens
- Philip II and El Escorial
- Photography, History of
- Pollock, Jackson
- Polychrome Sculpture in Early Modern Spain
- Postmodern Architecture
- Pre-Hispanic Art of Columbia
- Psychoanalysis, Art and
- Qing Dynasty Painting
- Rembrandt van Rijn
- Renaissance and Renascences
- Rivera, Diego
- Rodin, Auguste
- Roman Art
- Science and Conteporary Art
- Sculpture: Method, Practice, Theory
- South Asia and Allied Textile Traditions, Wall Painting of
- South Asia, Modern and Contemporary Art of
- South Asia, Photography in
- South Asian Architecture and Sculpture, 13th to 18th Centu...
- South Asian Art, Historiography of
- The Art of Medieval Sicily and Southern Italy through the ...
- The Art of Southern Italy and Sicily under Angevin and Cat...
- Theory in Europe to 1800, Art
- Timurid Art and Architecture
- Turner, Joseph Mallord William
- van Gogh, Vincent
- Viking Art
- Warburg, Aby
- Warhol, Andy
- Wari (Huari) Art and Architecture
- Wittelsbach Patronage from the late Middle Ages to the Thi...
- Women, Art, and Art History: Gender and Feminist Analyses
- Yuan Dynasty Art