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Byzantine and Early Christian Art: Introduction

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Eric Weichel

on 16 October 2015

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Transcript of Byzantine and Early Christian Art: Introduction

engraving by Onofrio Panvinio in his work De Ludis Circensibus (Venice, 1600) engraving, dated 1580, may be based on a drawing from the late 15th century
Michael III Before The Church St. Mamas, from the Madrid Skylitzes
hippodrome guild procession, weavers,. Ottoman miniature from the Surname-i Vehbi, kept at the Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi, Istanbul (Hazine 1344, folios 338b-39a)
Depiction of the Hippodrome in 1536, by the Ottoman miniaturist Matrakci Nasuh. The serpent column, an object with one of the longest known literary biographies, was made in the 5th century BCE (478 BCE) to commemorate the triumph of 31 Greek cities against the Persians at Plataea.
The four bronze horses that used to be in the Hippodrome, today in Venice. Basilica of San Marco, removed 1204.
Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant (1845 - 1902), 'The Throne Room at Byzantium', oil on canvas, Private Collection, 101.3 x 73.7 cm.
The Byzantine Empire at the accession of Leo III, c. 717.
In 867
In 1025, under Basil II
in 1180, at the end of the Komnenian Period
The Partition following the sack of Constantinople by the forces of the Second Crusade, 1204
Constantine, reigned 306 - 337: his vision of the Chi-Rho symbol at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, 28 October 312, had profound consequences for the spiritual and political organization of the Roman Empire.

Antler wand with a European-like face
Dorset culture
(circa CE 1000-1200)
Bathurst Island, Arctic Canada
Brattachurch, Greenland (Qassiarsuk), 21st-century heritage reproduction of Thjodhildr's (c. 950 - 1000) church , the first in the "New World"
L'Anse aux Meadows, only yet proven site of pre-Columbian transoceanic contact (c. 1000).

From an island on one of Stockholm's lakes: the Helgo Buddha (© Swedish History Museum), a 6th-century Kashmiri icon, likely traded via Russia
The Helgo Treasure: three special foreign religious items, found close together, from a thriving economic center at the center of the Viking World
bronze crozier, probably of Irish origin and would have formed part of a bishop’s staff. Dating from the 8th (early 9th?) centuries, brought back as plunder. Jonah and the Whale.
Coptic Ladle from North Africa: Viking raids on the Mediterranean earned the respect of the Byzantine Emperors, who incorporated Scandinavian men in their elite Varangian Guard.
Varangian Guardsmen, an illumination from the Skylitzis Chronicle. After the Norman Conquests, refugee Anglo-Saxon fighters were assimilated into the Guard, used as elite shock troops deployed during a critical stage in the battle.
From the Madrid Skylitzes: an attempted rape victim kills her attacker: his fellow guardsmen reward her with his possessions.
Ship burial of Igor the Old in 945, depicted by Henryk Siemiradzki (1843-1902)
Radiocarbon analysis of the women’s bones indicated that they died c. 1220±40 and 1230±40 BP (c. 790 CE); dendrochronology dates from the burial tent timbers give a date of 834 CE.
From the mound in Oseberg, Norway, discovered in 1904: the remains of two women, one in her eighties and arthritic; the other about 50, of unclear relation (family? slave?).
Conditions within the mound are damp: many wooden objects were recovered in exceptionally good states of preservation.
The most famous are the five zoomorphic animal-head posts, each covered in beautifully intricate and detailed interlace carving.
made of maple, with slots for carrying, they likely had a magical, ritualistic purpose
One of three beds found with the ship. The extraordinary wealth of the burial leads to speculation that the inhabitant could be Queen Asa. Abducted and forcibly married by the man who killed her father and brother, she engineered her husband's death and returned with her infant son to her homeland, which she ruled as Queen until his majority. Her grandson Harald Fairhair united Norway (872).
Another bucket is surmounted by a figure sitting crosslegged, with a cross and decorative patterning similar to that of the Irish Book of Durrow (650 - 700) or the Book of Lindisfarne, from the monastery just off the coast of Northumberland (founded 634, abandoned 875).
he main text contains the first sentence of the Gospel According to Saint Matthew: "Liber generationis Iesu Christi filii David filii Abraham", Folio 27 of Eadfrith of Lindisfarne's Gospels.
Book of Kells, Folio 84c, Chi-Rho
Opening of the Gospel of John, the Book of Kells.
icons of Mary
Viking Art
Christianization of the Viking Rus
Our Lady (Theotokos Elusa) of Vladimir (12th century), the holy protectress of Russia, now in the Tretyakov Gallery (1917, during the Revolution).
-probably painted in Constantinople about 1131, at the end of the Komnenian Dynasty, known for their interest in literature and the arts.
-Gifted to the Grand Duke of Kiev, it was taken to Vladimir and housed in a splendid church, which the Mongols sacked in 1238.
-Taken to Moscow and used as an intercessory tool with the Madonna for luck in battle in 1395, 1451, and 1480.
-also associated with Kingship. All coronations, from within the church and the imperial family, taken in its presenece;
-1598 succession episode saw the icon taken from the Dorimition Cathedral and paraded to the quarters of the widowed Empresses' brother
-taken out to bless the troops before the Battle of Borodino, against Napoleon, in 1812.
Egor Zatsiev, The Eve of Borodino, showing the Theotokos of Smolensk taken out before the Napoleonic Troops.
Sutton Hoo Ship Burial, Suffolk, early 7th century
Mosaic of Irene of Hungary and the Madonna, Mosaics from inside Haiga Sophia.
the first of the post-iconoclastic mosaics. It was inaugurated on 29 March 867 by Patriarch Photius and the emperors Michael III and Basil I
Church of Haiga Sophia, built to replace an earlier Basilica that burnt to the ground as part of the Nike riots in 532; completed in 537, mosaic decoration ongoing until 575; restored in the 9th century after the Iconoclausm. Reinaugurated as a mosque in 1453, and as a Museum as of 1935.
Milivian Bridge, built in the 2nd century BCE, where letters from the Catiline conspiracy were intercepted, and where Constantine defeated Maxentius
Arch of Constantine, c. 315, Roman Forum
Helena Coin of Flavia Iulia Helena, mother of Constantine, from the Trier mint
Helena's head relic
in the crypt of Trier cathedral
Public baths (thermae) built in Trier by Constantine. More than 100 metres (328 ft) wide by 200 metres (656 ft) long
The Porta Nigra, Trier: from 318 onwards, the city was the largest north of the alps and the seat of government of the westernmost province, the Gallia Praefectura.
Konstantinbasilika - view from the northwest
Piero della Francesca, 1452-66, fresco cycle in Arezzo: the finding and recognition of the True Cross by Empress Helena
Reconstruction of the bishop's church in the 4th century, from which the present Trier Cathedral developed.
The emperor Constantius II (ruled 337-61), Julian's cousin and superior. One of the three sons and successors of Constantine I the Great, he survived his two brothers to become sole emperor in 350. He is portrayed with a halo, as were most Christian emperors of the period. Portrait on a manuscript of the Chronography of 354, Rome
Portrait of a barbarian. Mosaic fragment from the Great Palace at Constantinople. 6th or 7th century (reign of Heraclius, 610 - 641?)
Detail from the front, upper partReliquary of the True Cross” or Staurothek
Constantinople Byzantine, c. 960 CE
gold, gems, cloisonné enamel polychrome h: 48 cm
from Limburg a.d. Lahn; Diözesanmuseum or Dom-Museum, Domschatz
The Mosaics of Justinian and Theodora at San Vitale, Ravenna, made in 547, shortly after the city had been retaken from the Ostrogoths and designated the headquarters of the Byzantine administration in Italy.
From the Madrid Skylitzes: Theophilus (813 - r.829 - 842) executes pro-Iconodule conspirators. In the page on the left, from a psalter manuscript, c. 863 (Moscow), people who whitewash holy icons of Christ are compared to his tormenters during the Crucifixion.
The Marienschrein, Workshop of the Aachen Master, 1239
Unknown 14th-century artist - La Conquête de Constantinople of Geoffreoy de Villehardouin, Venice, ca. 1330
Palace of Blachernae, built by Alexius I Comnenus (1081 - 1118), sacked 1204
Queen Melisende's Psalter: The Harrowing of Hell. Jerusalem, 1131-43. British Library.
Artist rendering of the Krak des Chevaliers seen from the north-east. From Guillaume Rey, Étude sur les monuments de l'architecture militaire des croisés en Syrie et dans l'île de Chypre (1871).
Islamic Art
Court of the Lions, Alhambra
Two men dancing, one with a stringed instrument, the other holding a bird and brandishing a curved knife. Miniature. Spain, Andalucia, 1009
Mosaic Calligraphy from the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem
mirab of the Great Mosque, still in situ, Made in 961 by Al-Hakam II at Cordoba in Al-Andalus, Spain
Hadîth Bayâd wa Riyâd - BAVaticana Ar. Ris. 368. The oldest surviving manuscript from Islamic Spain. 1st half of the 13th century: taken from Tunis by the forces of Charles V (1500 - r. 1516 - 1558)
early 8th century art at the Great Mosque of Damascus, done by Byzantine mosaicists captured or employed by the Umayyad Caliphate at Damascus, Syria.
Hisham's palace, c. 750,floor mosaic in the baths of an Umayyad palace depicting the symbolic Tree of Life
Sacrifice of Conon. Temple of the Palmyrene gods in Dura-Europos. 1st. century CE in a Graeco-Iranian style.
Heracles depiction of Vajrapani as the protector of the Buddha, 2nd century Gandhara,
The Genius with flowers, Hadda, Gandhara. 2-3rd century CE. Musée Guimet.
French Limoges enamel ciborium with rim engraved with Arabic script and Islamic-inspired diamond shaped patterns, c 1230, pseudo-Kufic
Pseudo-Arabic script in the Virgin Mary's halo, detail of Adoration of the Magi (1423) by Gentile da Fabriano. The script is further divided by rosettes like those on Mamluk dishes
pseudo-Kufic. A mancus or gold dinar of the English king Offa (r. 757–796), a copy of the dinars of the Abbasid Caliphate (774)
Pseudo-Kufic script in medallion on Byzantine shroud of Saint Potentian, 12th century.
Ottoman miniature of the Siege of Belgrade, 1456
Sultan Mehmed II in 1479. Portrait by Italian painter Gentile Bellini.
Fragmentary silk velvet with repeating tiger–stripe and cintamani design, Ottoman period (ca. 1299–1923), second half of 15th century
Turkey, Bursa
Silk, metal–wrapped thread; cut and voided velvet (çatma), brocaded; H. 29 1/2 in. (74.9 cm), W. 28 in. (71.1 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1908 (08.109.23)

Mirror with split–leaf palmette design inlaid with gold, Ottoman period (ca. 1299–1923), early 16th century
Turkey, probably Bursa or Istanbul

-predates later Chinese influence on Ottoman Turkish ceramics.
-similarities to tiles of Timurid Central Asia, via documented presence of Persian tileworkers in Bursa

Hungarian–style Shield, ca. 1500–1550, from an orientalist tournament in east-central Europe.
Fragmentary loom width with wavy–vine pattern, Ottoman period (ca. 1299–1923), ca. 1565–80
Tughra (Imperial Cipher) of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (r. 1520–1566), ca. 1555
Khusrau Hunting: Page from a manuscript of the Khusrau and Shirin of Hatifi, dated 1498; Ottoman
Siege of Constantinople from Bibliothèque nationale mansucript Français 9087 (folio 207 v).
The Coliseum and the Arch of Constantine (315), dedicated by the Senate in honour of the triumph over Maxentian.
The arch re-uses 2nd-century imperial art, such as these roundels depicting Hadrian (r. 117 - 138), which famously contrast with the contemporary sculpture created specifically for the Arch.
The four co-emperors of Diocletian's time (c. 295 CE), porphyry sculpture produced in Asia Minor, displayed in the Philadelphion Square until at least the 8th century, taken as plunder to Venice in 1204, and today on a corner of Saint Mark's in Venice, next to the "Porta della Carta".
rediscovered 1934
Theotokos. Coptic tapestry. Cleveland. The Mother of God as a Byzantine Empress, c. 500 CE.
Christian Krohg, Leiv Eriksson, 1893
Dr. Eric Weichel
EV-1-615, Thursdays, 12:15 – 14:45
(Office Hours Thursdays, 15 – 16:30) EV-3-771

ARTH 362/2-A Gold in the Darkness: Studies in
early Christian and Byzantine Visual Art

Course Description:
This course is an introduction to the visual and material culture of the early Middle Ages, with a special focus on the representation of politics and sexuality in Byzantine art. Topics under discussion include, but are not limited to: shifting ideals of masculine sexuality in early depictions of Christ, innovations in Saxon, Viking and Visigothic metalwork and wood-carving, political intrigue and the destruction of religious icons at the Byzantine court, the assimilation of Islamic motifs in Spanish sacred architecture, and Celtic decoration in illuminated manuscripts from the period. We also discuss the adoption and long survival of Byzantine visual traditions in the material culture of Ottoman Turkey, and the cultural ‘afterlife’ of the period in the visual art of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Europe.

Midterm – OCTOBER 16, 35%.
The exam will consist of a set of twenty pairs of images that have previously been unseen in lectures: the student is asked to respond to the slide comparison in full-sentence paragraph format, defending their attribution to artist, period, theme, approximate date and, most importantly, relevance to the readings of each image.

Five minutes is given for each pairing.

A brief explanation for their juxtaposition will be given in the format of a text quoted from one of the assigned readings: the source will be provided.

The objective of the midterm examination is not to test for memorization or for the rote repetition of specific canonical art objects; rather, the aim is to demonstrate the student’s level of engagement with and knowledge of the broad themes, issues and concepts presented in both the lectures and the assigned readings.
Virtual Exhibition and Critical Analysis
: - NOVEMBER 3 - 40 %.
Papers are submitted electronically via e-mail. Using the assigned readings as a theoretical core, students will a) build a virtual collection (website) of at least 50 digital images of relevance to the lectures, using either Prezi or Tumblr, including correct labels; b) provide a two-page illustrated description of five works of original visual art t
hat the student has personally seen
in Montreal, including notes on their chosen object’s conditions of exhibition and historical provenance; c) write a ten-page paper in which they connect the major themes of their virtual collection with their choice of both digital and actual art objects, exploring their general indebtedness to the style of Paleo-Christian or Byzantine art.

Essays will be written in 12-point Times New Roman font, will use full citation footnotes formatted in Chicago style (similarly to the references below), and will cover at least 25 distinct and academically credible sources.
Papers that do not include footnotes or at least 25 sources will not be accepted
. The student is encouraged to include non-western visual art from outside the traditional canon to illustrate their understanding of major themes discussed in class and in assigned readings.

Suggested venues in which to discover Byzantine or Byzantine-influenced works of visual art in Montreal include the Fabulous Fabergé, Jeweller to the Czars exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal (closes October 5th), the Mediterranean Archaeology or Islamic Art collections of the MMFA, or devotional images in the Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount-Royal, or the Saint-Sophie Orthodox Cathedral of Montreal.

Final Exam: - 25%. The final exam, one ten-page essay question, will be assigned at the end of the last day of class, and will be due two weeks later. The essay response will mostly focus on the material after the mid-term. The student will be able to pick from a list of five questions dealing with the major conceptual themes of the course. Papers will be graded on the originality and depth of demonstrated research (35% of assignment) as well as dexterity of expression (30%) and level of engagement with the course material (35%).
Full transcript