Classical trends in Byzantine and Western Art in the 13th and 14th centuries

Classical trends in Byzantine and Western Art in the 13th and 14th centuries

By Elena (Hélène) Papastavrou

Byzanz – Das Römerreich im Mittelalter. Peripherie und Nachbarschaft, Monographien des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz, eds. Daim F. & Drauschke J. (Mainz, 2010)

Annunciation Mileševa Monastery

Introduction: During the last two centuries before the Renaissance of the arts in Italy in the 15th century, different waves of classical trends marked the artistic creation of both Byzantine and western worlds. Between 1220 and 1260 in particular, a parallel development of the revival of ancient forms is noted in both of the above-mentioned traditions. Various artistic expressions later developed independently.

The various artistic tendencies of the period under discussion are well known by the critics but usually Byzantine and Western cultures are studied separately. In the present paper, it is interesting to expose some aspects of the revivals of ancient art in both worlds, namely Byzantine and Latin, during the 13th and 14th centuries. In this way, it will, firstly, be possible to establish a more appropriate method for examining the origin of this extensive wave of ancient revival that took place during the 13th century. Secondly, it is useful to note how this Proto-Renaissance gave way under the weight of more conservative Byzantine forms in 14th century Byzantine painting and, thirdly, it is instructive to show an interpretation of how, in the West, namely in Italy, the classical forms developed unimpeded from 1260 onwards so that they eventually continued into the great Renaissance.

For this purpose, I shall first briefly expose the historical and political situation of the Byzantine Empire vis-à-vis the European world during the period under consideration. I shall then touch upon the artistic phenomena, pointing out the most characteristic cases.

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