Byzantine art

Constantinople and the East

The Roman Empire continued with its capital at Constantinople, and is known as the Byzantine Empire.

c. 330 - 1453 C.E.

Beginner's guide

Generally speaking, Byzantine art differs from the art of ancient Rome in that it is interested in depicting that which we cannot see—the intangible world of Heaven and the spiritual.

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<em>The Emperor Triumphant (Barberini Ivory)</em>
The Emperor Triumphant (Barberini Ivory)

This energetic image of military victory captures a moment of transition between classical and Byzantine art.

<em>Deësis (Christ with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist)</em>, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Deësis (Christ with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist), Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

When the most important church in the East became a mosque, this mosaic was covered but three faces survived.

<em>Theotokos mosaic</em>, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Theotokos mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The size and solidity of this Virgin and Christ reaffirmed the power of images in the wake of Byzantine iconoclasm.

Hagia Sophia as a mosque
Hagia Sophia as a mosque

After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, the sultan repurposed this church, adding slender “pencil” minarets.

<em>Icon with the Triumph of Orthodoxy</em>
Icon with the Triumph of Orthodoxy

Created at the end of the Byzantine Empire, this image looks back to the achievements of an earlier empress.

Ivory Panel with Archangel
Ivory Panel with Archangel

His body swells beneath the cloth, but his feet hardly touch the ground. This awkward angel is part pagan, part Christian.

The <em>Paris Psalter</em>
The Paris Psalter

Large and lavish, the images in this manuscript revived the classical style for medieval church use.

<em>Virgin (Theotokos) and Child between Saints Theodore and George</em>
Virgin (Theotokos) and Child between Saints Theodore and George

Preserved in a desert monastery, this wax-on-wood icon leads the viewer upward and inward to the spiritual realm.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

The golden dome of this vast building appears suspended from heaven. It has withstood quakes, conquest, and crusades.

Selected Contributors | Constantinople and the East