With images culled from eleven hundred years of history, this comprehensive survey explores the Byzantine empire’s vast range of artistic splendors that indelibly informed the art of modern Europe. Renowned scholar Thomas Mathews emphasizes that the Byzantines’ interest in humanism and painting the human figure became the essential bridge between classical and renaissance Europe. Starting with a brief history of Byzantium as a basis for understanding Byzantine theology and art, he places the empire’s artistic development within a broad cultural and historical context. Featuring more than one hundred color plates of mosaics, metalwork, architecture, frescoes and religious artifacts, as well as maps, diagrams, and a timeline, this definitive work provides a complete yet succinct introduction to the full range of Byzantine art and iconography.
Byzantium provided the foundation for art and philosophy throughout the Middle Ages. Mathews (art history, New York Univ.), the author of several books on early Christian and Byzantine art, adds his insights into this influential culture in this survey for lay readers. Attempting to place Byzantine art in the context of its setting, Mathews approaches his subject thematically, with chapters including a bit of Byzantine history and architecture and different applications of art in Byzantine society. There is an interesting chapter on everyday, secular decorative art encompassing depictions of country life and fashion in the palace. Though this is an overview--wonderfully illustrated by color photos, maps, and diagrams, with a nice timeline at the end--the academic text is not easy reading. Recommended for larger public and most academic libraries.--Karen Ellis, Baldwin Boettcher Lib., Humble, TX