Grossmont College Image Analy

I’m working on a design question and need guidance to help me learn.

  1. One artwork from this week’s made within the Byzantine Empire, and one artwork from Late Antiquity.
    1. These two (2) artworks or monuments should have been created at least one hundred (100) years apart.
  2. Provide one paragraph of a thorough visual analysis for each artwork individually, beginning with the older one and then the newer one (two paragraphs total).
    1. You will need to provide a paragraph describing the dominant visual and physical elements of the older work individually, then a second paragraph doing the same thing for the more recent artwork.
  3. Then provide one paragraph that analyzes the changes and continuities you notice in the two artworks from Late Antiquity and the Byzantine Empire.
    1. This analysis requires you to do a thorough comparison of these two works in relation to each other. You may choose to focus on the visual elements (principles of design), materials, techniques, content and subject matter, purpose and/or use, and symbolism or meaning in your analysis of the two works. It should explain clearly the aspects that remain the same over time, the aspects that differ, and what you think accounts for those continuities and changes (i.e. why are some features consistent and others different).
  4. Conclude with a summarizing sentence that explains whether you think the Byzantine Empire should be considered part of the long history of the Roman Empire or whether you think it should be considered a new era separate from the earlier Roman Empire, based on the continuities and changes you observed and described in your previous paragraphs.
    1. Your reflection should be one sentence at the end of your analysis.

San Vitale

Construction of Ravenna’s greatest shrine, San Vitale ( FIGS. 9-1 and 9-10 ), began under Bishop Ecclesius (r. 522–532) shortly after Theodoric’s death in 526. A wealthy citizen, Julianus Argentarius (Julian the Banker), provided the enormous sum of 26,000 solidi (gold coins), weighing in excess of 350 pounds, required to proceed with the work. San Vitale is unlike any of the Early Christian churches ( FIG. 8-25 ) of Ravenna. It is not a basilica. Rather, it is centrally planned, like Justinian’s churches in Constantinople, and it seems, in fact, to have been loosely modeled on the earlier Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus there.

As already discussed (see “ Church and State United ”), San Vitale’s design features a dome-covered, clerestory-lit central space defined by piers alternating with curved, columned exedrae, creating an intricate eight-leafed plan ( FIG. 9-11 ). The exedrae closely integrate the inner and outer spaces that otherwise would have existed simply side by side as independent units. A cross-vaulted choir preceding the apse interrupts the ambulatory and gives the plan some axial stability. Weakening this effect, however, is the off-axis placement of the narthex, whose odd angle (and that of the atrium that once preceded the narthex) is probably to be explained by the orientation of the preexisting streets in this section of Ravenna.

The mosaic- and marble-clad walls and vaults of San Vitale’s interior ( FIG. 9-1 ) are dazzling. In the apse vault ( FIG. 9-12 ) is a vision of the Second Coming. Christ, youthful in the Early Christian tradition, sits atop the world and holds a scroll with seven seals (Rev. 5:1). The four rivers of Paradise flow beneath him, and rainbow-hued clouds float above. Christ extends the golden martyr’s wreath to Vitalis, the patron saint of the church, whom an angel introduces. At Christ’s left, another angel presents Bishop Ecclesius, who offers a model of San Vitale to the Savior. The arrangement recalls Christ’s prophecy of the last days of the world: “And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of Heaven” (Mark 13:26–27).

Images and symbols covering the entire sanctuary express the single idea of Christ’s redemption of humanity and the reenactment of it in the Eucharist. For example, the lunette mosaic over the two columns on the northern side of the choir depicts the story of Abraham and the three angels. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was 90 years old and childless when three angels visited Abraham. They announced that Sarah would bear a son, and she later miraculously gave birth to Isaac. Christians believe that the Old Testament angels symbolize the Holy Trinity. Immediately to the right in the lunette is the sacrifice of Isaac, a prefiguration of Christ’s crucifixion (see “ Old Testament Subjects in Christian Art ”).

The Via Latina Catacomb

Discovered in 1955, the catacomb in the Via Dino Compagni on the ancient Via Latina outside the walls of Rome features an extensive series of high-quality mural paintings. Of unusually regular plan, the underground complex probably was the private burial place of a small number of families of considerable means. According to many scholars, some of these families must have been Christian, others possibly Jewish, and some traditional Roman, based on the subjects chosen for the murals, which range from Old Testament themes—for example, Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea—to the miracles of Christ to Greco-Roman mythology.

In place of the long galleries of modest loculi that characterize most catacombs, the Via Latina Catacomb consists of a series of elaborate cubicula with groin vaults, columns, pediments, cornices, and niches carved out of the bedrock and then decorated with mural paintings. The frescos in cubiculum N ( FIG. 8-5 ) celebrate the greatest Greco-Roman hero, Hercules (see “ Herakles ”). The setting of the story in the main niche is Hades. (The three-headed guardian dog of the Underworld, Cerberus, establishes the location; compare FIG. 6-8 .) The painter depicted Hercules rescuing Alcestis from the Underworld and presenting her to her husband, Admetus, seated at the right. The side walls of the niche illustrate two of the hero’s seemingly impossible 12 labors: the multiheaded hydra of Lerna, and the golden apples of the Hesperides (compare FIG. 5-31 ), the last of his labors, after which the gods awarded Hercules immortality.

Does the presence of mythological scenes in the same burial complex as biblical themes featuring both Hebrew prophets and Jesus mean that the Via Latina Catacomb housed the remains of adherents of different faiths? Not necessarily. About the time that painters were decorating this catacomb (ca. 320–360), the Church officially incorporated the Hebrew Bible—called the Old Testament by Christians—into the full Bible as we know it today. The Jewish subjects were thus merged into a coherent Christian “story line” in which the events of the Old Testament were seen as predictive forerunners of those of the New Testament (see “ Old Testament Subjects in Christian Art ”).

Traditional Greco-Roman mythological themes also took on new meaning for Christians. In the Via Latina Catacomb, the patrons undoubtedly chose the labors of Hercules to highlight the hero’s role as conqueror of death and savior of humankind, establishing Hercules as an ancient counterpart to Christ. The commingling of religious iconography and artistic traditions in this catacomb typifies the world of Late Antiquity and of fourth-century Rome in particular.

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