Comparison of Two Art Periods

Byzantine Art

            The form of art that flourished during the Eastern Roman Empire especially in its capital in Byzantium or in Constantinople was simply called the Byzantine art - Comparison of Two Art Periods introduction. The distinguishing feature of this art was all that made it unique from the arts of the other countries. In the beginning of the rise of the Byzantine art; whether if it is in Ravenna, in Constantinople or in Rome itself, the Byzantine art was influenced both by the classical art of the West and the allegory of the East. Despite these manifold of influences, the Byzantine art was able to maintain its classical influences.

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            The elements of the East and of the West both developed Byzantine arts and making it more and more of an individual art, although one cannot deny the huge influence of the Western arts in its form after several hundred of years of exchange. The Byzantine art reached its full mark in 867 until 1056 B.C under the Macedonian emperors.


Baroque is an art period in Europe during the 17th century, it started in Italy in late 16th century. The Baruqoe style is different from other art periods as it is usually characterized by sensuous richness, movement and tension, exuberance, drama and vitality and filled with emotion. In general Baroque art is created to appeal to the senses with many manifestations and in very dramatic ways.

            The term Baroque was originally a synonym for the term they describe to the earliest form of Baroque art which is absurd and grotesque. Current historians described Baroque as the style that was prevalent in Europe between the Mannerism and the Rococo periods. The style has been closely associated with the Catholic Counter Reformation because the paintings, sculpture and architecture are filled with the confidence spirit of the Roman Catholic Church. Baroque is closely related to religious art but the facets of Baroque can be seen in art works that do not display erratic emotions such as dynamic lines that were the features of certain Dutch paintings.

            Next, Baroque was not only an art style when it was embraced by the people during those period in history, but Baroque was the general term used to described the politics, the sciences and the social environment during that era. Some categorized the term’s origin as florid and capricious.

            Baroque started when in 1600; there was a demand for a new form of art in Europe. There was a Catholic canon called the Council of Trent in 1545 and which lasted until 1563; this canon called for the demand that representations in art such as paintings and sculpture should not be ignorant but must appeal to those who are intellectual and well-informed. This call was addressed to, according to art historians for the concept of ecclesiastical art.  Like other art forms, Baroque changed from its intellectual qualities of it Mannerist nature and transformed into the facets that are aimed directly for the senses.

            As defined by Heinrich Wölfflin, the Baroque style replaced the circle being the center of the composition by the oval; on the central axis balanced was replaced by organization, and lastly, the color rich effects became more popular. Art historians expressed that the Baroque style came up as a reaction by the Roman Catholic Church to the rampant revolutionary ideals and movements that aimed to produce change in the sciences and on religion.  This revolutionary movement was then called the Reformation; hence Baroque was an art aimed to counteract the Reformation Movement. In addition to that, the Church devised the Baroque style so that it can restore the stature and the symbol of papacy which is in line with Catholic restoration; hence the Baroque style was very successful in Rome especially in the field of architecture.

Comparisons between Byzantine and Baroque Architecture

            The Byzantine architecture had much influence from the Roman architecture; the differences would be on the stylistic drifts of the design which suggests the influences of the Near East and it can also be observed from their architecture that they followed the cross plan blueprint of the Greek architecture. One of the most distinguishable qualities of the Byzantine art was transition from the square plans in churches to the dome-shaped ones and this is dome by the use of squinches and pendentives.

            Later the Byzantine architecture underwent major changes when it combined the longitudinal basilica and a once centralized building; usually this centralized structure is octagonal in shape. Under the Macedonian kings, architecture developed the use of multiple domes that narrows down with further advances. During the late period of the Byzantine art, the architects dwelt more on the use of vertical thrusts of the structure making the building less grandiose. But the decorations on the walls of Byzantine building have remained less flamboyant but have always been intricate. Contrary to the developments of emotional and colorful during the Baroque period, those of the Byzantine the walls was decorated mostly by complex brickwork and then glazed with ceramic as a finishing touch. The difference between the Baroque and the Byzantine architecture mostly lies on the mass of its arches, and the styles that filled its walls.

The Baroque architecture was characterized by it bold colonnades and domes.  Usually they are in light and shades effects which made artists during those times to experiment on many colors; this effects which is so prominent in Baroque art is called chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro which is the Italian term for light dark is a style used to describe the alternation and the contrast of light and dark. This was used by the artists to achieve volume while modeling three-dimensional objects. Other unique feature of Baroque architecture were the presence of state apartments, it is often described as the sequence of rich interiors that leads to a throne room or a state room.

            It was Michelangelo’s buildings specifically the Saint Peter’s Basilica was considered to be the earliest form of Baroque influence; since the placement of the latter lead to a huge colossal unity.  One of the most important and significant church façade of Il Gesu of the Roman Catholic Church was also one of the earliest work of art under the Baroque period.  The important features of the baroque architecture are the broad naves that were very circular in forms. There is an opulent use of adornments and decorations which are often highlighted in the use of puttos, plaster and marble. In baroque architecture it is also common to have large scale ceiling also the façades with very impressive central projections.  The rooms are filled with trompe l’oeil form of art which blends perfectly with the painting and the architecture. Trompe l’oeil is an art technique that uses intense realistic imagery that can therefore create and optical illusion; a two-dimensional painting appears three dimensional.

Comparisons between Byxantine and Baroque Paintings

            Byzantine art, aside from the color that is used can easily be distinguished by looking at its symmetry. Most Byzantine paintings that were found in the walls of their churches used axial symmetry, most of the detail in the paintings were full front, and some (like the angels present in these arts) were in three-quarter face. The balances in these paintings were observed very well, in fact groups in paintings were always gathered together to preserve this balance. The technicalities of the picture were very simplified and using only a few colors but these colors were juxtaposed to each other therefore creating the masterful image.  The backgrounds used in these paintings were usually blue or bright gold; moreover, Byzantine paintings are usually more grey and a few pearly hues.   This is in contrast to the to the rich color of most Baroque paintings with the dark background and choosing a specific objects that were illuminated coming from an unidentifiable light source.

            What define the Baroque painting are its dominating concepts of monarchy and iconography embraced by its depictions of space and the environment.  The dominant painters during that era are Peter Paul Robins and Luxembourg Palace.  Most of the works of the artists in that period showed varying emotive styles.  Most of these paintings are showcased at Bernini’s Saint Theresa in Ecstasy. Baroque paintings were defined by its deep and rich color with intense dark and light shadows.  It is very observable in these paintings that the life were provided with very convincing skin and cloth textures; making the Baroque style centered on and individual and detail.  Caravaggio directly painted individuals and objects against a strong background. Like the Baroque architecture, Baroque paintings also used the chiaroscuro effects which were very common in paintings done by Rembrandt and Vermeer.   It was the Antony Van Dyck that developed a way of imposing portrait in a very graceful manner; this style was very significant in England.

Comparisons between Byzantine and Baroque Sculpture

            On of the most distinguishing features of Baroque sculpture is the constant movement and flow that seem to cover the structure; it seemed that they curved and twisted over an invisible central vortex reaching up above. Moreover, another feature of the Baroque style was the presence multiple view angles; also, there were added elements in a Baroque sculpture. Bernini who equaled with Michelangelo also became his contemporary in the Baroque period, his style merged form and spirituality which made him very popular during those times. The Baroque style in sculpture was more individualistic, filled with more action and more expression; this is therefore in parallel with the strong sense of desire of the Baroque artists to go out from the linearity of Byzantine arts, it is obvious in their style that they’re filled with new ideas.

            Byzantine sculpture on the other hand had most of its influence from the Greeks and the Romans and also influences from the Near East which is mostly geometric in shape, with very sharp edges very different from the flowing style used by the Baroque artists.


Baroque was connected to the religious tensions that enveloped the Roman Catholic Church with its division with Protestantism, while on the other hand; Byzantine art had close relationship with classical thoughts along with its limitations imposed by medieval Christianity.  It is easier to point that Baroque art is a form of response to the limitations given by the Byzantine art, as observed on the themes usually used in Byzantine arts, what were given focus are the icons of the Church. There is almost a uniform way of representing an icon which is a major restraint for the Byzantine artists. For example, most of the paintings done during this period had to be selected from a specific Bible scene or perhaps a solo portrait of Jesus Christ and other saints. Moreover, due to the lack of knowledge during those periods wherein the Church was the authority both in the sciences and in politics, artists were not fueled to search deeper and study the arts.  Hence what were portraits were those that the Church and the Emperor wanted to show and push for. In addition to that, art techniques were developed more to approach a symbolic form.  In Baroque, art was created and studied in order to produce pieces that could possibly mimic nature and reality as closely as possible with an added lavishness which marked the emotions of the artist doing it. In the Byzantine art, this attempt to follow what the eyes see in nature have been discarded to give their works stronger sense of symbolism in them where were mostly Biblical.

The Baroque was devised in the era where the Church feared the Protestant Reformation hence the Baroque philosophy started on 1550 with the Roman Catholic Church and its Counter Reformation program. The point and objectives of the Baroque art were clear, it is intended to visually and at the same time emotionally appealing so that it will capture the largest audience as possible; yet, those artists must also make sure that those that were depicted in their arts have to be doctrinally correct. On the other hand, those of the Byzantine art were iconoclastic and imperial at the same time. But these themse were later combined as showcased by the mosaics and portraits of the Byzantine emperors that were decorated mostly in their churches. This can largely be attributed to the pious and the tyrannical nature of the Byzantine society.  Moreover, the structure of the Byzantine society before was that large percentage of the wealth of the nation was in the hands of the imperial offices and the Church, therefore they had most of the opportunities to venture into artistic endeavors, artists were therefore artist to reflect what the church and the emperor wanted to see.

Baroque artist used some revolutionary techniques which is the selection of a few figures and illuminating them in the picture.  Unlike the soft tomes that were often seen in Byzantine pictures.  Also the Baroque style witnessed the transformation of art from human centeredness to absolute monarchism which depicts their power.  As the style evolved it became known as an absolutism, wherein, the painters, architects, sculptors – the artists in general – showcased their emotions, their movements, and their weaknesses in their arts.  There are high volumes in their works with much exaggerated decorations and the sense of domination is sensed. There is a strong drama of mixed emotions in their works; in contrast to the dominating philosophy and features of the Byzantine art where the focus is on the idea of the perfection of man hence what was often depicted in these works is a monument with all the vigorousness of a man and the perfection that he should be.

Works Cited

Wölfflin, H. Renaissance and Baroque. 1964

Gardner, Helen, Fred S. Kleiner, Christin J Mamiya.  Gardner’s Art through the Ages, 12th edition. Belmont, CA : Thomson/Wadsworth. 2005

Mango, C. The art of the Byzantine Empire, 312-1453: sources and documents. Englewood Cliffs, 1972.

Evans, H.C., The glory of Byzantium. New York, 1997.

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