War and art…

War, what is it good for? An age old question to which I can say: certainly not preserving art or cultural artefacts, nor fostering an atmosphere which might encourage visitors despite the destruction and neglect of surrounding areas caused by war.

After developing an affinity for the images of mosques, madrasahs, and minarets of Central Asia, I find myself torn at the idea of crossing war paths to follow cultural trails.

Consider, for example, the seventh-century crisis in which Constantinople (now Istanbul) already faced with natural disasters and civil wars, as it struggled with religious and political strife. The Ottoman’s further decimated the already under-populated and decimated city in the 1300s, from which only a few items survived and are still available for view. The rest of the Byzantine works were destroyed, stolen, damaged, or simply “lost”.

A vast majority of Byzantine art was almost entirely concerned with religious expression which went on to have a significant impact on the art of the Italian Renaissance. What little art was left found itself in Russia, Serbia, and Greece. Featured below is a piece which remained in Constantinople/Istanbul which serves as a lasting example of the surviving art of Byzantium.

Christ Pantocrator (detail), 1280.
Deisis mosaic.
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul.

I’m pretty sure photos, paintings, and carvings will never do the wonder and beauty of what Byzantium once was, but can see some of what’s left for yourself at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s  Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition exhibition through 18 July 2012. Furthermore, bring these images home in the form of this finely illustrated Byzantine Art ebook (also available in printed format).
-Le Lorrain Andrews

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