Presentation on theme: "Late Antique Art (Early Christian Art, Early Jewish Art)"— Presentation transcript:
1 Late Antique Art (Early Christian Art, Early Jewish Art) 200 – 550 CE
2 Christianity began as a prohibited and therefore underground religion Christianity began as a prohibited and therefore underground religion. Its earliest works appear in the catacombs and on sarcophagi.Christian images were inspired by the classical past but were also influenced by Constantinian artwork from the Late Roman Empire.Christian buildings used both the axially planned Roman basilicas and the centrally planned Roman temple forms.Other cultures flourished during the Late Antique world, such as the Early Jews, who generally prohibited a narrative artistic tradition, but occasionally figurative work appeared in such places as Dura Europos.Key Ideas
3 Historical Background Christianity, in the first century CE, was founded by Jesus Christ, whose energetic preaching and mesmerizing message encouraged devoted followers like Peter and Paul to spread the message of Christian faith and forgiveness across the Roman world through active missionary work. Influential books and letters, which today make up the New Testament, were powerful tools that fired the imaginations of everyone from the peasant to the philosopher.Historical Background
4 Historical Background Literally an underground religion, Christianity had to hide in the corners of the Roman Empire to escape harsh persecutions, but the number of converts could not be denied, and gradually they became a majority in Rome. Recognizing the status quo, the Romans officially tolerated Christianity in 311 CE; Edict of Milan. Christianity was well on its way to becoming a state religion, with Emperor Constantine’s blessing.Historical Background
6 Historical Background After emerging from the shadows, Christians began to build churches of considerable merit to rival the accomplishments of pagan Rome. However, pagan beliefs were by no means eradicated by the stroke of a pen, and ironically paganism took its turn as an underground religion in the Late Antique period.Historical Background
7 Patronage and Artistic Life It was not easy being a Christian in the 1st – 3rd centuries. Persecutions were rampant; most of the early popes, including Saint Peter, were martyred. Those artists who preferred working for the more lucrative official government were blessed with great commissions in public places. Those who worked for Christians had to be careful where they went and to whom they spoke.Patronage and Artistic Life
8 Most Christian art in the early centuries survives in the catacombs, buried beneath the city of Rome and other places scattered throughout the Empire. Christians were mostly poor – society’s underclass. Artists imitated Roman works, but sometimes in a sketchy and unsophisticated manner. Once Christianity became recognized as an official religion, however, the doors of patronage sprang open. Christian artists then took their place alongside their pagan colleagues, eventually supplanting them.
9 Early Christian Innovations Under the city of Rome rests a hundred miles of catacombs, sometimes five stories deep, with millions of interred bodies. Christians, Jews, and pagans used these burial grounds because they found this a cheaper alternative to aboveground interment. Finding the Roman practice of cremation repugnant, Christians preferred burial because it symbolized Jesus’s, as well as their own, rising from the dead –body and soul.
10 Early Christian Innovations Catacombs were dug from the earth in a maze of passageways, that radiated out endlessly from the starting point. The poor were placed in loculi, which were holes cut in the walls of the catacombs meant to receive the bodies of the dead. Usually the bodies were folded over to take up less room. The wealthy had their bodies blessed in mortuary chapels, called cubicula, and then placed in extravagant sarcophagi, like the one dedicated to Junius Bassus.
11 Early Christian Innovations Christians understood how they could adapt Roman architecture to their use. Basilicas, with their large, groin-vaulted interiors and impressive naves, were meeting places for the influential under the watchful gaze of the emperor’s statue. Christians reordered the basilica, turning the entrance to face the far end instead of the side, and focused attention directly on the priest, whose altar (meaning high place) was elevated in the apse. The clergy occupied the perpendicular aisle next to the apse, called the transept. Male worshippers stood in the long main aisle called the nave; females were relegated to the side aisles with partial views of the ceremony. In this way, Christians were inspired by Jewish communities in which this sexual division was standard.
12 Early Christian Innovations A narthex, or vestibule, was positioned as a transitional zone in the front of the church. An atrium was constructed in front of the building, framing the façade. Atria also housed the catechumens, these who expressed a desire to convert to Christianity but had not yet gone through the initiation rites. They were at once inside the church precincts but outside the main building. This overall design had the symbolic effect of turning the church into a cross shape.
13 Early Christian Architecture Early Christian art has a “love/hate” relationship with its Roman predecessors. On the one hand, these were the people who mercilessly cemented Christians into giant flowerpots, covered them with tar, ignited them, and used them to light the streets at night. On the other hand, this was the world they knew: the grandeur, the excitement, the eternal quality suggested by mythical Rome.
14 Early Christian Architecture Early Christian art shows an adaptation of Roman elements – taking from their predecessors the ideas that best expressed Christianity, and using the remnants of their monuments to embellish the new faith. In this way, Christianity, like most religions, expressed dominance over the older forms of worship by forcing pagan architectural elements, like columns, to do service to a new god. Old Saint Peter’s employed a number of Roman columns from pagan temples.
15 Early Christian Architecture Early Christian churches come in two types, both inspired by Roman architecture: Centrally planned and axially planned buildings.Axial Plan:A church with a long name whose focus is the apse, so-called because it is designed along an axisCentral Plan:A church having a circular plan with the altar in the middle
16 Early Christian Architecture The more numerous axially planned buildings, like Old Saint Peter’s, had long naves focusing on an apse. The nave was usually flanked by two side aisles, two on each side. The first floor had columns lining the nave; the second floor contained the triforium space, usually decorated with mosaics; and the third floor had the clerestory, the window space. Early Christian basilicas have wooden roofs with coffered ceilings.
17 Early Christian Architecture Centrally planned buildings, like Santa Costanza, were inspired by Roman buildings such as the Pantheon. The altar was placed in the middle of the building beneath a dome ringed with windows. Men stood around the altar; women in the side aisle, called an ambulatory.
18 Old Saint Peter’s Old Saint Peter’s, 320, Rome Built on the spot where it is believed Saint Peter was buriedAxially planned building, inspired by Roman basilicas like the Aula PalatinaColumns are spoils from Roman buildings, a political statement of the triumph of Christianity over paganismBare exterior, richly appointed interior: representing the Christian whose exterior is gross but whose soul is beautifulAs in the Jewish tradition, men and women stood separately; the men stood in the main aisle, the women in the side aisles with a partial viewThose not fully initiated stood in the atrium, the courtyard that was embraced by the church precincts but not inside the church itselfWooden roof, coffered ceiling
19 Santa Costanza Santa Costanza, 337 – 351, Rome Centrally planned buildings usually used for mausoleums in the ancient world; this building may have originally been the mausoleum of Costantina, Emperor Constantine’s daughterDomed main space; barrel-vaulted side aisleDouble ring of 12 paired columns, symbolizes the 12 apostlesAustere exteriorCentrally plannedMosaics inside: putti harvesting grapes producing wine; Christian message of turning wine into the bl9ood of Christ; pagans would see it as the followers of Bacchus in a pagan ritual
20 Mausoleum of Galla Placidia Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425, Ravenna, ItalyProbably originally a chapel to Saint LawrenceFusion of central plan and axial planExterior: brick façade represents the gross exterior world, minimal windows, cornice runs around building, pediments on all sidesInterior: brilliantly colored mosaics; represents the soulIconographic program stresses a Christian’s path to redemption
21 Early Christian Painting Catacomb paintings like the ones at Saint Peter and Marcellino from the fourth century, show a sensitivity toward artistic programs rather than random images. Jesus always maintains a position of centrality and dominance, but grouped around him are images that are carefully choses neither as Old Testament events that are hierarchically arranged. From ancient paintings, Early Christians learned to frame figures in either lunettes or niches.When Christianity was recognized as the official religion of the Roman Empire in 380, Christ was no longer depicted as the humble Good Shepherd; instead he took on imperial imagery. His robes became the imperial purple and gold, his crook a staff, his halo a symbol of the sun-king. The mosaics at Galla Placidia are examples of this later phase of Early Christian art.Early Christian Painting
22 Good Shepherd, 4th century, fresco, Catacomb of Saints Peter and Mercellino, Rome Catacombs beneath Rome have 4 million dead, and extend for about 100 milesRestrained portrait of Christ as a Good Shepherd, a pastoral motif in ancient art going back to the Greek Calf BearerSymbolism of the Good Shepherd: rescues individual sinners in this flock who strayCross layout of designStories of the life of the Old Testament prophet Jonah appear in the lunettes, Jonah’s regurgitation from the mouth of a big fish is seen as prefiguring Christ’s resurrectionsParallels between Old and New Testament stories strong in Early Christian art; Christians see this as a fulfillment of the Hebrew ScripturesOrant figures appear between the lunettesRoman influence: sketchy painterly brushstrokes evoke Pompeian paintingGood Shepherd
23 Good ShepherdGood Shepherd mosaic from the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425, Ravenna, ItalyGold cross shows Christ’s victory over deathPagan interpretation could indicated that Christ is OrpheusChrist is imperial: golden halo, purple and gold robes, imperial staff instead of a crookRegal version of Christ
24 Early Christian Sculpture There was a reluctance among Christians to have themselves identified with pagan religions and their idols; therefore, large scale sculptures of Jesus and his apostles were avoided. Instead, ivories and marbles were carved on a more personal scale. Christians sculpted in the late Roman style: short figures with uniform height and squat proportions. Christians were less interested in individuality of expression and the proportional relationships of figures to buildings and background settings than they were in the spiritual message and powerful narratives that Bible stories inspire.Early Christian Sculpture
25 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus, 359, marble, Museo Storico del Tesoro della Basilica di San Pietro, RomeJunius Bassus was prefect of Rome, baptized just before his deathScenes from the Bible in separate niches on the frontCenter top; Christ enthroned like an emperor over the sky god; Saints Peter and Paul flanking; Christ’s position is a symbol of the Christian god dominating the pagan
26 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Junius Bassus’s redemption through Christ is seen as a parallel to the redemption scenes on the sarcophagusUniform height of the figures regardless of whether they are sitting or standingBiblical episodes freely mixed, not in orderCarved on three sides, meant to be placed against a wallInfluenced by Roman architectural elements and figure style
27 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References Over-all Christian contextDivided into two rows with five sections eachHas both Old & New Testament scenesSarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References
28 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References Abraham Sacrificing IssacSarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References
29 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References Adam and EveSarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References
30 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References Jesus riding into JerusalemSarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References
31 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References Late Imperial Roman crowded composition and squat figuresFew empty spacesSarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References
32 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References Upper Center has Jesus with feet on Zeus's headSarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References
33 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References Greek PedimentsRoman ArchesGreek ColumnsCupid minions of Venus on the sideSuggested presence of Baccus identified through the visual of grape vinesSarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References
34 Although Jews almost universally ban images in temples today, their ancient brethren had a number of interpretations of this prohibition. Even though the second commandment warns the faithful not to worship other gods, the Old Testament mentions a number of incidents in which images would be valid; for example, in Exodus 25:18-22, God orders Moses to install two cherubim above the Arc of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.Early Jewish Art
35 Ancient Jews living in a Greco-Roman world, surrounded by narratives of the pagan gods and their heroic deeds, must have influenced Jewish artists in the town of Dura Europos, a backwater community with provincial craftsman working for a poor congregation in a synagogue that was a converted house. Although these paintings from have a refreshing directness, they betray an unschooled approach by having only frontally faced figures and a lack of true narrative sequence. However, they could not have existed in isolation, and strongly suggest that Early Jewish art must have had a rich tradition of representational artwork.
36 Synagogue of Dura Europos, 245-256, frescoes, National Museum, Damascus Originally a private home, then converted into a synagogueOld Testament stories illustrated; all Bible figures are represented except God, who appears as a handTorah niches in eh centerPaintings are not in narrative orderStylized gestures, expressionless figures, frontal arrangement, huge eyes, strongly detailed outlines, hierarchy of scaleFigures lack volume and shadows; some lack legsNo action of story; an assembly of formsDura Europos