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Late Antique Art (Early Christian Art, Early Jewish Art)

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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 axis Central 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 buried Axially planned building, inspired by Roman basilicas like the Aula Palatina Columns are spoils from Roman buildings, a political statement of the triumph of Christianity over paganism Bare exterior, richly appointed interior: representing the Christian whose exterior is gross but whose soul is beautiful As 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 view Those not fully initiated stood in the atrium, the courtyard that was embraced by the church precincts but not inside the church itself Wooden 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 daughter Domed main space; barrel-vaulted side aisle Double ring of 12 paired columns, symbolizes the 12 apostles Austere exterior Centrally planned Mosaics 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, Italy Probably originally a chapel to Saint Lawrence Fusion of central plan and axial plan Exterior: brick façade represents the gross exterior world, minimal windows, cornice runs around building, pediments on all sides Interior: brilliantly colored mosaics; represents the soul Iconographic 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 miles Restrained portrait of Christ as a Good Shepherd, a pastoral motif in ancient art going back to the Greek Calf Bearer Symbolism of the Good Shepherd: rescues individual sinners in this flock who stray Cross layout of design Stories 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 resurrections Parallels between Old and New Testament stories strong in Early Christian art; Christians see this as a fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures Orant figures appear between the lunettes Roman influence: sketchy painterly brushstrokes evoke Pompeian painting Good Shepherd

23 Good Shepherd Good Shepherd mosaic from the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, 425, Ravenna, Italy Gold cross shows Christ’s victory over death Pagan interpretation could indicated that Christ is Orpheus Christ is imperial: golden halo, purple and gold robes, imperial staff instead of a crook Regal 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, Rome Junius Bassus was prefect of Rome, baptized just before his death Scenes from the Bible in separate niches on the front Center 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 sarcophagus Uniform height of the figures regardless of whether they are sitting or standing Biblical episodes freely mixed, not in order Carved on three sides, meant to be placed against a wall Influenced by Roman architectural elements and figure style

27 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References
Over-all Christian context Divided into two rows with five sections each Has both Old & New Testament scenes Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References

28 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References
Abraham Sacrificing Issac Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References

29 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References
Adam and Eve Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References

30 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References
Jesus riding into Jerusalem Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Christian References

31 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References
Late Imperial Roman crowded composition and squat figures Few empty spaces Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References

32 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References
Upper Center has Jesus with feet on Zeus's head Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References

33 Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus Greco Roman References
Greek Pediments Roman Arches Greek Columns Cupid minions of Venus on the side Suggested presence of Baccus identified through the visual of grape vines Sarcophagus 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 synagogue Old Testament stories illustrated; all Bible figures are represented except God, who appears as a hand Torah niches in eh center Paintings are not in narrative order Stylized gestures, expressionless figures, frontal arrangement, huge eyes, strongly detailed outlines, hierarchy of scale Figures lack volume and shadows; some lack legs No action of story; an assembly of forms Dura Europos

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