Byzantine art is the art of the Eastern Roman Empire, as well as the nations and states that inherited culturally from the empire. As a stylistic label, it covers a wide range of artists, styles, and periods from Early Christian art to the Middle Ages. Even though there is no real distinction between the Byzantine Empire and East Roman Empire, scholars use these designations conventionally to distinguish between the medieval Greek-speaking world and the Latin-speaking Christian world, which developed a separate artistic style in its own right due largely to the Western Schism.
Byzantine art encompasses a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, mosaics, metalwork, and manuscript illumination. It also incorporates elements from both Eastern and Western artistic traditions, as well as pagan artistic influences.
One of the most distinctive features of Byzantine art is its iconography, which often draws on biblical, religious, and mythological sources. This helps to explain why the style was so popular with the church, as it was able to communicate complex theological concepts in a visually accessible way.
Another distinctive feature is the use of perspective, which was not widely used in other artistic traditions of the time. This helped to create a sense of depth and space in Byzantine art, which could be used to convey religious messages.
The colours used in Byzantine art are often bright and vivid, and the style is known for its use of gold leaf. This helps to create a sense of opulence and luxury, which was often associated with the Byzantine Empire.
Despite its popularity with the church, Byzantine art was not without its critics. Some felt that the style was too ornate and cluttered, and that it lacked the simplicity of earlier Christian art.
However, Byzantine art continued to be popular throughout the medieval period, and its influence can still be seen in some of the art of the Renaissance.