Talk:Byzantine art

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Yes, bring on the iconoclasts. Their inluence on byzantine aesthetics is much underestimated. AlainV 01:51, 2004 May 12 (UTC)

This article is under construction. All will be dealt with in time. Adam 04:25, 12 May 2004 (UTC)

Globus crucige[edit]

Globus Crucige belongs to medieval iconography. But, we don't have a Wikipedia article on the subject as of yet, so Byzantine art works for now. Stbalbach 02:03, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

No doubt you are correct. But if you follow the original link for Globus cruciger [1] you will discover that it was voted by a body of our peers that it be placed in this article, and the original article deleted. Since removing this from the aricle is effectivly removing it from Wikipedia entirely (since our peers decided that it did not deserve an article of its own), I would suggest an altnerative solution. Stbalbach 03:12, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I think if this subject interests you, you should create a mediaeval iconography article. Adam 03:14, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I have little background in that area, just enough to know where this topic belongs, it is a response to the VfD decision linked to above, I find it curious people VfD on topics they seemingly know little about. Stbalbach 03:19, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Well, I have to agree that Globus cruciger as it stands isn't much of an article. It really belongs in a wider discussion of Christian imagery or mediaeval art. Adam 03:56, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I've created a new article Globus cruciger. Stbalbach 04:59, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Is there much to be said about medieval iconography that needs to be separated from the iconography article? Adam Bishop 06:51, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Im not that up on it by any means and you may know more than I, but there are entire dictionaries and encyclopedias on iconography, its like learning a new language. Here are some [2]. It depends how much one wants to get into it in Wikipedia. Most medieval paintings and art are full of iconographic messages, you have to know the visual language to decode what they all mean. Stbalbach 07:22, 30 Apr 2005 (UTC)

"...said to reflect the ...being felt in"[edit]

"The work is said to reflect the Italian influence being felt in the Byzantine world at this time." -- does this sentence sound slightly odd to anybody else? I can't quite tell what exactly.....

By the way, this is one of my favourite article. I find myself reading it again and again every now and then. --Menchi 02:06, 19 May 2005 (UTC)

I did mean to come back and finish it but I never got round to it. Perhaps the sentence would read better "the Italian influence which was being felt" ? Adam 06:51, 19 May 2005 (UTC)


Should we merge Byzantine architecture with Byzantine art? Brandmeister 13:39, 23 January 2006 (UTC)

No. Medieval art is a separate tree from Medieval architecture. -- Stbalbach 15:26, 23 January 2006 (UTC)

Info box[edit]

I've made and added Template:Byzantine culture. Please let me know if you think it's useful. Tom Harrison Talk 01:15, 6 February 2006 (UTC)

A question[edit]

Provided that you contribute a decent text. --Ghirla -трёп- 15:19, 3 July 2006 (UTC)

"In architecture they achieved masterpieces such as Hagia Sophia, a building of superior scale and magnificence to anything in the ancient world." IMO this is POV--Greece666 20:39, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

Give Ivory it's own sub-heading[edit]

Considering it's importance in all manner's of Byzantine Art, shouldn't ivory be given a sub-heading?

You'll also have to find a PD image, which that one is not. Adam 16:30, 3 July 2006 (UTC)


Does anybody else think it would be nice to give headers to the periods section such that Justinian Age, Macedonian Renaissance, Comnenian Restoration, and Palaeologan Age are their own subsections? Srnec 21:21, 4 July 2006 (UTC)


"The rise of Islam had important consequences for Byzantine art, because many Christians came to accept the Islamic view that the depiction of the human form was blasphemous." It's no longer believed that the onset of iconoclasm under Leo III had anything to do with Islamic influence -- especially since early Islamic art itself was hardly aniconic (i.e. Qusayr 'Amra, various monuments of the "minor arts" such as the Humayma ivories, etc.). I plan to modify this. --Javits2000 13:08, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

So long as you provide sources. Adam 13:27, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

Have made changes, and am happy to provide sources; although as the entire article, at present, is entirely without sources, I will note them here in the discusion page.

The state of the question on iconoclasm is nicely summarized in Robin Cormack's handbook, Byzantine art (Oxford, 2000), Ch. 3. The critical study of the sources on iconoclasm is only about thirty years old, and begins with two monographs by Stephen Gero: Byzantine iconoclasm during the reign of Leo III (Louvain, 1973) and Byzantine iconoclasm during the reign of Constantine V (Louvain, 1977). These are surpassed, if not entirely superseded, by Dietrich Stein's dissertation, later published: Der Beginn des byzantinischen Bilderstreites und seine Entwicklung bis in die 40er Jahre des 8. Jahrhunderts (Munich, 1980). For the reign of Constantine V the work of Marie-France Auzépy is particularly important: L’hagiographie et l’Iconoclasme Byzantin: le cas de la vie d’Etienne le jeune (Brookfield, 1999). We now have a handbook exclusively devoted to the sources in English from John Haldon and Lesley Brubaker: Byzantium in the iconoclast era (ca. 680-850): the sources (Birmingham, 2001); a new history of the period by the same authors is shortly to appear. On the Vatican Ptolemy see David Wright, “The date of the Vatican illuminated handy tables of Ptolemy and of its early additions,” Byantinische Zeitschrift 78 (1985).

Best regards, --Javits2000 14:58, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

From what little reading I've done the Islamic connection to iconoclasm remains in play. It just makes logical sense. The Byzantines were collapsing under Arab conquests, not unlike Russia in the 1990s in the face of capitalism, or Japan post-WWII, they adopted some of their enemies cultural ways. I would be curious how and why this has been discredited. -- Stbalbach 17:23, 19 November 2006 (UTC)
One major problem is that a connection to Muslim and/or Jewish aniconism was a major feature of the iconodule polemic of the later ninth and tenth centuries; there is a standard topos according to which Leo or Constantine sold his soul to a group of Jews, Muslims, and/or devils in exchange for power, promising to ban icons once on the throne. Gero, in the book on Leo, had already noticed that this was preposterous, and a part of the post-iconoclastic rewriting of history; the subject was fully addressed by Paul Speck in a book with an unwieldy title -- Ich bin's nicht, Kaiser Konstantin ist es gewesen: die Legenden vom Einfluss des Teufels, des Juden und des Moslem auf den Ikonoklasmus (Bonn, 1990).
Once one has done away with these stories, it is still of course possible to make a more general argument about cultural influence, as you suggest; Whittow floats something of the sort in his Making of Byzantium. But those sorts of arguments are difficult to prove, and we have no sources to suggest that Christians adopted an aniconic posture in emulation of the Muslims. In fact, the arguments for iconoclasm were always drawn directly from the Bible -- the Mosaic prohibition of graven images, the story of the golden calf, etc. And these arguments had always been around in the Christian church -- there are periodic flare-ups from the time of Constantine straight through to iconoclasm where some bishop decides that icons are idols and smashes them up. So there's no need to appeal to outside influence -- the possibility was always there in the history of Christianity.
When you add to this the fact that early Islam was not "aniconic," as I mentioned above, there is really no reason to think that aniconism was a major part of the Byzantine perception of Islam in the first century or so of contact -- again, we have no sources to suggest that it was. It seems rather to be the case that aniconism is always a possible position within monotheism -- it has waxed and waned in Islam, and cropped up a decent number of times in Christianity as well -- for example, during the Reformation. In short: one can't disprove an Islamic "influence" on Byzantine iconoclasm, but the bulk of the evidence suggests that it developed entirely within the context of Christian dogma, so that the theory of Islamic influence is both unsupported and unnecessary. --Javits2000 18:04, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

Further remarks[edit]

The more I look at this page, and especially the introduction, the more inclined I am to take an axe to it. But first I'll float a few objections here:

"Byzantine art grew from the art of Ancient Greece, and at least before 1453 never lost sight of its classical heritage, but was distinguished from it in a number of ways."

One would rather say that Byz. art developed from imperial Roman art; as "ancient Greek art" tends to imply Athens in the age of Pericles, and the emphasis on "Greece" is anachronistic (i.e. the byzantines called themselves Rhomaioi, "Romans") and suggestive of post-medieval nationalist agendas.

at least before 1453 -- is there Byz. art after the Byz. empire?

"The most profound of these was that the humanist ethic of Ancient Greek art was replaced by the Christian ethic. If the purpose of classical art was the glorification of man, the purpose of Byzantine art was the glorification of God, and particularly of his son, Jesus."

Hard to tell what this could mean. If one counted up the figures represented in Byz. art a massive majority would be saints, mostly men; and Jesus, one seems to recall, was deemed notable, among other accomplishments, for having assumed flesh. In any case, the statement is probably too general to have any meaning; and reeks of world-historical / Hegelian approaches to the interpretation of medieval history.

"In place of the nude, the figures of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the saints and martyrs of Christian tradition were elevated, and became the dominant - indeed almost exclusive - focus of Byzantine art. One of the most important forms of Byzantine art was, and still is, the icon: an image of Christ, the Virgin (particularly the Virgin and Child), or a saint, used as an object of veneration in Orthodox churches and private homes."

Figures of God the Father? Outside of the odd hand stretching out from heaven, those are pretty thin on the ground. Byz. art had other preoccupations as well, both religious (most notably the prophets and other figures from the Hebrew Bible), and, yes, a significant body of secular representations, some of them -- nude. To say that the icon "is still" a crucial form of Byz. art would seem to suggest, either that the empire is still around, or that the contemporary art of the Orthodox church is identical with Byzantine art -- neither of which are terribly credible propositions.

I tire of quibbling, and would rather ask -- where did this text come from? Is it an old Britannica article? I see no references at the bottom. In any case it hardly reflects current research in the area; I propose a complete overhaul. --Javits2000 15:39, 19 November 2006 (UTC)

I didn't write it, it was mostly written by a Wikipedia from Australia (I forget his name, see the article history) who if I remember correctly is a published author and university professor and works in the Australian government - it's probably 2 to 4 years old by now, one of the earlier Wikipedia articles, way before sources or citations were an issue. It sounds like you know a lot about the topic, it should reflect current standard mainstream views - as I said above I thought it already did that based on the few sources I have read, but this is not an area I am well read on. -- Stbalbach 17:30, 19 November 2006 (UTC)
Ok, I've overhauled the introduction; comments and corrections most welcome. I've attempted to preserve many of the concerns of the original introduction (i.e. relationship btw. Byz. & classical art; religious content and theory of the icon) while updating the information and adding references. In addition I've added a brief precis of the major genres of Byz. art. --Javits2000 11:09, 25 November 2006 (UTC)
Looks great! Nice to have sources too. If your at all interested in Medieval art topics I wrote most of the Medieval art page (mostly an outline currently), with the list of sub-articles, it's an area that Wikipedia in general is very weak in, large areas with no articles at all. -- Stbalbach 15:22, 26 November 2006 (UTC)

I attempted to improve the article back in February and I agree that it needs work. Please be bold! --Ghirla -трёп- 11:45, 27 November 2006 (UTC)

On the other hand, I would not like the general account of Byzantine art to be hijacked towards obstruse discussion of those Americans who studied Byzantine art, especially as the most influential researches (e.g., Nikodim Kondakov) were in fact European. --Ghirla -трёп- 11:54, 27 November 2006 (UTC)
Not sure I understand the cautionary note -- the introduction mentions: Vasari, a Florentine; Berenson, an American; Riegl & Strzygowski, both Viennese; Kitzinger, a German Jew; Onians, an Englishman; and Mango, rather a cosmopolitan (born in Istanbul, of Russian, Greek, and English descent; lives in England). You may be right to suggest that this passage is a bit abstruse. I put it there since the question of "style change" remains one of the major subjects of interest re: Byz. art, but no real consensus exists as to its solution. The previous intro suggested vaguely that this had something to do with Christianity; I thought it better to set out the major theories from the past five hundred years, then indicate that the shift in style seems not to have been perceived by the Byzantines themselves.
Noone would deny that Kondakov was an important scholar, if more concerned with iconography (e.g. the Ikonografiia Bogomateri) than with style change in late antiquity. Hopefully we can find a place herein to include mention of his work & that of others of his school (Ainalov, Grabar, etc.). --Javits2000 13:31, 27 November 2006 (UTC)


what are specific characteristics of byzantine mosiacs? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:31, 3 April 2008 (UTC)

Santa Sabina e Santa Maria Maggiore[edit]

Scusate l’italiano, ma il mio inglese è troppo rudimentale: ho letto la voce molto ben scritta ma ho dei dubbi sul passaggio che menziona Santa Sabina e Santa Maria Maggiore (due chiese di Roma, la mia città) come esempio di chiese paleo-bizantine. Io direi che entrambe c’entrano poco con l’arte bizantina: ai tempi della loro fondazione a mio giudizio l’influenza bizantina in Italia non si è ancora dispiegata e Roma d’altronde è ancora un centro culturale (e in definitiva, ora più ora meno, lo sarà sempre) in grado di esprimere valori culturali ed artistici autonomi. -- (talk) 09:18, 5 March 2010 (UTC)

Legacy, recent edits[edit]

While much of substance has been added to this section, it has been tainted with hyperbole and meaningless subjective qualifiers. Portions are written as though for a thesis - rather than an encyclopedia entry. Some examples:

"The splendour of Byzantine art was always in the mind of early medieval Western artists and patrons"

This is so overly inclusive as to be meaningless. Which medieval Western artists and patrons? All of them? All the time? No. I attempted to retain the underlying substance with a minor rewording:

"The splendour of Byzantine art was prominant in the mind of early medieval Western artists and patrons"

This didn't address all the issues -but was a start.

Another example:

"Islamic art began with artists and craftsmen mostly trained in Byzantine styles, and though figurative content was greatly reduced, Byzantine decorative styles remained a great influence on Islamic art, and Byzantine artists continued to be imported for important works for some time, especially for mosaics."

Islamic art most definitely did not BEGIN as indicated above - but was profoundly, fundamentally influenced so. The extent of the use of fıgurative elements is ambiguous - reduced from what to what? The section then makes continuity references without any context.

Again, an attempt to fix these issues:

"Islamic art borrowed much from Byzantine style, and though figurative content was largely absent, Byzantine decorative style was of great influence. Byzantine artists were imported for important works, especially for mosaics."

Of course, the mater of WHERE the artist where imported to is left to the reader to work out- 'not the west', presumably...

These and a number of syntax/diction edits were all reverted without address. The edit summery spoke only to the utility of the inclusion of a contemporary image influenced by Byzantine style. The image of John Coltrane is a vivid example of the lasting influence and contemporary legacy of Byzantine art. Not only is it topical, the article would be better for the inclusion of other contemporary works, such as jewelry and metalwork, sculpture, etc.

I have reverted the article to include these changes, heedless of the intermediary edits, as an illustration of just how unproductive such disregard is. Perhaps we can move forward more constructively?Mavigogun (talk) 19:49, 21 November 2010 (UTC)

This all seem to flow from my removal of the Russian icon pastiche portrait of John Coltrane, which only relates at a remove to Byzantine art, and is hardly representative of anything. Perhaps you should try adding it at Russian icon? Good luck with that. The other points were simply not improvements; it is hard to drastically copyedit text when you evidently don't know much about the subject. Yes all early medieval Western artists and patrons, all of the time. Islamic art did indeed begin with "artists and craftsmen mostly trained in Byzantine styles" - why do you think it didn't? Imported to the Islamic world, rather obviously. I have reverted your removal of a considerable amount of new text. What do others think? Johnbod (talk) 20:30, 21 November 2010 (UTC)
The tone of the statements aren't credible: Islamic art, while profoundly influenced by Byzantine art, was not the sole inception. Islamic art has it's roots in a myriad of cultures - Persia, the Sassanid Empire, those of central Asia including China, Bedouin and other nomadic and semi-sedentary tribes. The statement that "Islamic art began with artists and craftsmen mostly trained in Byzantine styles" is simply fallacious: artists and craftsmen steeped in Byzantine art definitely played a fundamental role in the development of Islamic art - but were not unto themselves the start. Correcting this misstatement would be an inconsequential mater.
Baldly unverifiable and over reaching claims - such as what was in the mind of a every Western medieval artist - are exactly the sort of noise we endeavor to parse when drafting encyclopedia articles; at the best they are useful, in quotes, to illustrate the position of a particular source.
As to what constitutes a significant constituent of the legacy of Byzantine art, reasoned arguments for the inclusion of the Coltrane Icon have been met with what amounts to 'no it isn't' ( which amounts to 'I don't like the inclusion but can't summons a reason for not including it'). While I laud the energy put into advancing the article, it is not a platform for pontificating a particular thesis and is not under the purview of the same. Publish your own work if you want to be an autocrat; editing here requires a different tact.Mavigogun (talk) 06:05, 22 November 2010 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Edits by 2a06...[edit]

IP user 2a06… recently added new sources (found 5 so far: Michelis, Weitzmann, Ainalov, Stylianou et al., Hanfmann) and also changed the page’s source-citation style. I respect Johnbod’s position that the changes are radical, but they’re kinda useful if you think about it. In fact, go and check the page before 2a06…’s edits, and you'll discover info gaps in the listed notes like no publishing house info, no isbn info and no Google links for easy search access. So deleting 2a06...'s edits, plus the extra sources s/he added, hurts the page way more than it helps. Holler-Holland (talk) 01:59, 12 July 2018 (UTC)

My position is not that the changes to citation style are "radical", but that they are in total breach of WP:CITEVAR, and unnecessary. It would be easy enough to add what has been added (and really anyone interested can find "publishing house info" and isbns in seconds). All the google links I've checked are the useless and deprecated type to the main book page, not useful ones to previews for the page cited - another reason for reversing this cite-banditry. The brutal cite convention used has also removed useful note material - eg from the old note 1. The current reference 3 ("Cyril"!!!) is now completely mangled, with nothing at the bottom, and some new material introduced (Ainalov, nearly 60 years old now) is contradicted by other sources. A citation needed tag has been removed, with no other changes made, and the only text, except the dubious Ainalov point, that has been added is a single rather cryptic quote by Weitzmann. So, no, I've thought about it, and they're not "kinda useful", other than the added refs. Johnbod (talk) 02:17, 20 July 2018 (UTC)