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Justinian was a superb organizer, and one of the most remarkable patrons in the history of art.
He built and re-built on a huge scale throughout the Empire: his greatest work, the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, employed nearly 10,000 craftsmen and labourers and was decorated with the richest materials the Empire could provide. Vitale in Ravenna, the worshipper is dazzled by a highly controlled explosion of colour blazoned across glittering gold.
Even so, their bodies seem to float rather than stand within the tubular folds of their draperies. Vitale, and in Byzantine art generally, sculpture in the round plays a minimal part.
However, the marble capitals (dating from the pre-Justinian's era) are carved with surprising delicacy, with purely oriental, highly stylized vine-scrolls and inscrutable animals.
So beautiful was the effect of these mosaics that the form was taken up in Italy, especially in Rome and Ravenna.
A less public art form in Constantinople, was the icon (from the Greek word 'eikon' meaning 'image') - the holy image panel-paintings which were developed in the monasteries of the eastern church, using encaustic wax paint on portable wooden panels.
Romanesque Art (1000-1200) For Italian-Byzantine styles, see: Romanesque Painting in Italy.
For more abstract, linear styles, see: Romanesque Painting in France.
For more detail, see also: Christian Art, Byzantine Period.In the apse, wrapped in their own remote mystery, Christ and saints preside unimpassioned.Nevertheless, in two flanking panels of mosaic, one showing the Emperor Justinian with his retinue and the other, opposite, his wife Theodora with her ladies, there persists a clear attempt at naturalistic portraiture, especially in the faces of Justinian and Theodora.The style that characterized Byzantine art was almost entirely concerned with religious expression; specifically with the translation of church theology into artistic terms.Byzantine Architecture and painting (little sculpture was produced during the Byzantine era) remained uniform and anonymous and developed within a rigid tradition.