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The Beauty of Byzantine Art - 5th Century A.D. to 1453

Byzantine Painter - The Presentation in the Temple - Fifteenth century - Tempera on wood, gold ground - 17 1/2 x 16 5/8 in. (44.5 x 42.2 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (click photo for larger image)Byzantine Art is the art of the Byzantine Empire, centered in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The period ran from the Fifth Century A.D. to 1453. 

Byzantine art was completely focused on the needs of the Orthodox church, in the painting of icons and the decoration of churches with frescoes and mosaics. The work is very registered and linear—and the figures represented are devoid of expression or emotion. From a design perspective, Byzantine works represent some of the most exquisite creations in the history of art. Paintings were often completed on a gold ground.

The Byzantine style basically ended with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, during the European Renaissance. However, its influence continued for a considerable time in Russia and elsewhere where the Orthodox church held sway. Moreover, many of the Modernists who looked to the art of the Middle Ages for inspiration were heavily influence by Byzantine works.

The work featured here is based on the Gospel of Luke (2:22–38). According to that passage, when Joseph (far left) and the Virgin (center) presented Christ in the temple for the rite of purification—forty days after his birth—his divinity was immediately recognized by Simeon (right) and the prophetess Anna (left).

Although this work was created during the fifteenth century, it bears no resemblance to the works created in Italy, at the same time, by artists in other parts of Europe.

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