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Byzantine (Christian) and Islamic art  was about religious expression, but not as we think of it today.  During this period, religious expression was almost completely controlled by the church and therefore very uniform and consistent in their depictions and were less an expression of the artist's personal ideals.

Domes were a central part of this period as well a flat, frontal facing poses.  Many of the figures had large, peering eyes and were placed on a gold background to give the look/feel that the image was somewhat suspended in mid air between the wall and the viewer.

Did you know?

The ideals and characteristics of the Byzantine period disappeared after the fall of Constantine XI and Constantinople was renamed Istanbul.

Sound like a song you once heard?  Here's why:

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Below is some basic information on Byzantine (Christian)-Islamic and its characteristics and influences. If you would like to print off a copy of this page along with samples of art from this period, you can download the Byzantine-Islamic Summary above.

Mosaic of Madonna and Child
Mosaic of Madonna and Child

Mosaic from Hagia Sophia in Instanbul. Built in 537 as a Greek Orthodox Cathedral and converted to a mosque when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453. Since 1935 it has been a museum (Unesco World Heritage List, 1985).

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Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock

Built in Jerusalem, Israel, The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine; it was completed around 692 AD making it the oldest Islamic building in the world.

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Book of Hamza
Book of Hamza

This picture is in the Book of Hamza. The story is about Hamza traveling around the world teaching people about Islam. Emperor Akbar paid artists to create 1400 pictures to go with this manuscript.

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Quick Facts:
  • Art to glorify religion and spiritual symbolism

  • Showed what we can not see (heaven and spiritual world)

  • Byzantine Art was totally flat – one dimensional, no perspective, no shadows

Characteristics and/or Types of Art:
  • Mosaics, icons and frescoes

  • Architecture and painting (not sculptures)

  • Shift from Greco-Roman gods to Christianity

  • Art of the Near East (art for decoration and use of glowing colors)

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