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Styles & Periods
Byzantine Art

Byzantine Art arose from the expansion and regional dominance of the Byzantine Empire, and flourished further after the capital, Constantinople, was dedicated in the year 330, becoming the cultural center of the empire. Though the capital was initially appointed with treasures of ancient, classical art, the emerging style would prove more abstract and symbolic. The Age of Justinian ushered in an aggressive period of conquest for the empire, as well as major building and renovation projects in Constantinople and beyond. From Moscow to Turkey to Italy monuments were built, and decorated with religious and imperial iconography. In Ravenna, the Basilica of San Vitale remains as a jewel of the Justinian Empire. Its construction was not based upon the longitudinal axis of Early Christian basilicas, but instead, has an octagonal plan with a domed center. The interior space is complex, with rich mosaics of the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora that decorate multiple chambers. A new standard of beauty was set in the rendering of the portraits of the royal court in these mosaics from the standard of the Early Christian figures. In Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia is the most important monument of the Byzantine era. The former mosque is a masterpiece of physics and geometry, and includes the architectural element of buttressing, an innovation at the time, allowing the building to soar to new heights, and to include a collection of windows which reflected the sun’s path in a show of lights.

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