Christian, Jewish & Byzantine

Given the extreme diversity of the locales in which Early Jewish art was created, it is not uncommon to see Roman and Greek influences pervading early works.


Much of Early Christian paintings and sculptures utilized themes and styles from contemporaneous Roman works. Figures that were created in earlier periods, for example, were often depicted in a Classical style, while later portrayals appear truncated and squat in form. In much the same way, early Christian architects utilized the basilica as their main church structure, in many cases adding clerestories and side aisles to accommodate large congregations and pilgrims. Often, when used as mausoleums, these basilicas were turned on their axes to create circular buildings, containing a central apse and surrounding ambulatory. Given the Biblical command that forbids artistic renderings of holy figures, early works portray Christ as a sheep. However, this practice is eventually loosened and Christ begins to take the form of a Shepherd over the centuries.


Byzantine figures take on a significantly different appearance than their Western counterparts. While garments appear to have Classical folds and highlights, the human figures as wholes look significantly “flatter” and two-dimensional. It is also not uncommon to see the Virgin Mary and other divinities appear as if they were members of the Imperial family, enrobed in purple and haloed with nimbuses. For most churches, Byzantine architects opted not for the Western basilica, but for a floor plan that resembled the Orthodox Cross. While their exteriors tended to look plain, their interiors were designed to look heavenly, with shimmering gold mosaics and lofty spaces that stretched vertically with the employment of domes.