Anatoly’s Art History: Medieval Art

There are noticeable differences between the art of today and the art of yesterday. Even haphazard, fleeting glances can reveal entire worlds of differences between art from different time periods–even art originating from the same exact place.

The differences apparent in various periods of art history can be traced back to a number of factors, the most prominent of which is the people and the cultures surrounding them. That’s why I’ve been taking the time each month to review various periods and settings of art on my blogs at and New eras and specific cultures’ arts are inviting and worth exploring by their own merits. I began the journey with Ancient Roman art, then followed with Ancient Egyptian art and then took a step way, way back to the Stone Age, I’ve covered both cave paintings as well as Stonehenge in the past. After wrapping up the Stone Age pieces, shifting primarily to this WordPress blog and touching on Baroque art, I’ve changed focus now to Medieval Artwork. Here it goes.

Medieval Art

When many people think of Medieval times, they think of knights in armor, jousting, kings and queens and conquests of grandiose proportions. What’s often forgotten is the incredible array of art and artists that existed during this time and continue to exist today.

As most historians or history buffs would be able to tell you, the period known as Medieval period (or middle ages, to many)  began in the 5th century, and gave way to the early renaissance period in the 14th and  15th centuries. The renaissance overshadows the Middle Ages largely in an art and culture capacity, but both will get their due time on this blog, as I try not to show any inherent bias when it comes to art.

Like many other periods, Middle Ages art can be divided further down by both specific time periods and locations. Let’s look at a few.

Byzantine Art

Byzantine Art was some of the earliest art in the Middle ages and originated as religious artwork for the Eastern Orthodox Church. As a result of this, much of the art was centered around religious figures and had religious themed to it.

A notable featured of Byzantine Art is the flat, almost exclusively two-dimensional traits to it, and the jettisoning of realistic figures in favor of more symbolic, anti-naturalistic styles. This came with an almost solemn-looking tone to the paintings’ central figures, due to the long faces of the forward-facing people within them.

Romanesque Art

Created for what would be known as the Catholic Church, Romanesque Art took place after 1000 AD, roughly. This period was known mainly for its illuminated manuscripts, fresco art, and a shift towards more realistic depictions of the actors within the art pieces.  Romanesque Art also brought with it a heightened sense of prevalence on sculpture, which was formerly seen as creating false icons for idolatry.

Gothic Art

With the advent of Gothic Art came huge advancements in technique. Gothic Art brought with it a further-heightened sense of realism and featured more bright colors, more naturalism and a wider array of shadows and light techniques.

This period, which lasted from the 12-14th centuries, also saw the decline in religion-centric art in favor of secular pieces.


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