Italy Figurative Arts 3

In the meantime, similar forms take place in Ravenna, in full dominion of Byzantium, in the lunettes of the mausoleum of Galla Placidia and in the Baptistery of the Orthodox (449-459). In the mosaics of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo (mid-6th century), the Roman spirit no longer dominates, and Byzantinism infiltrates the vague indolent lines of the “procession of the Virgins”. Not the nocturnal lights of the mausoleum of Galla Placidia, not the gentle melody of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, but metallic clanges of gold, flashes of gems and mother-of-pearl in the apse of San Vitale. The art heir of Rome joins the art of the East.

At the end of the century VI and VII, even Rome is cloaked in the Byzantine style; the mosaic of the basilica of Sant’Agnese marks the advent of Byzantinism in Rome at the beginning of the century. VII: the figures lengthen, flatten, become polychrome zones inserted within a gold canvas.

According to, the pontificate of the Greek John VII brings to the century. VIII a sudden fantastic flowering of color in the mosaics of the chapel of the Virgin in the Vatican, of which some traces remain, with tesserae of my size, concave and flat, so as to refract the light differently, arranged with irregularities, in vortices, in squares , in parallel and tortuous lines. The mosaicist lavishes on you precious stones with royal liberality, weaves gemstones in which multicolored veins roam on the gold background. The parts of the frescoes of S. Maria Antiqua in the Roman Forum, which can be attributed to the time of John VII himself, also show a great renewal of art, to be reunited with the surviving Byzantine classicism.

Before the Carolingian age, the goldsmith arts had the maximum development for the ornaments of the multicolored robes of the barbarians, in the studs with rubies and garnets, in the necklaces with amber and glass. The excavations of Nocera Umbra and Castel Trosino suddenly shed light on the Goths of Italy and their customs, as can be seen for the objects collected in the Museum of the Diocletian Baths in Rome, objects with gold and silver melted in the grooves of the metal, according to a method improperly said to agemine or damasquine; or with vitreous matter cast in metals, or even with gold inserts of garnets, glass pastes and ancient cameos. Other objects are fretwork, with strong effects of light and shadow; cantilevered in the metal, with reflections of light on the oblique surfaces; with granulated threads forming continuous spirals, like filigree. With the objects of the Goths the others of the Lombards had a lot of homogeneity, those of Teodolinda in the Treasury of the Basilica of Monza were splendid. Among the carpets of Tire stretched out in the temples, the fabrics of Persia that covered sacred relics, the quilted frontals of Byzantium and Rhodes, the furnishings sparkling with gems, the crosses and crowns of gold, the sacred enamel vessels, the artists got drunk with color and light.

It begins in the Carolingian period, along the century. IX, an attempt to return to the ancient, but in the apses, ending with that of the church of San Marco (827-844) the echo of the ancient composition of Saints Cosma and Damiano becomes increasingly faint and distant.

In sculpture, along the century. IV, was a search, in Rome, for fantastic effects of light and shadow, of color, of motion. The porphyry, in the backgrounds of the arch of Constantine, gives the reliefs the emphasis that was missing; in the porphyry the figures are Egyptian cut, almost masks, with large smooth planes; the columns become twisted, like the one called Santa in S. Pietro, to circumvent shadows and lights in the coils; the drill is used frequently, the reliefs of the sarcophagus of Giunio Basso, now in the Vatican crypts, are undercut, to highlight the planes of light on the dark caves, on the beehives of the shadows.

Classicism, like a fire that crackles sparks under the ashes, reappears in all artistic manifestations, even among forms and memories of other regions and of other times. The new basilicas, while accepting subversions to the rules, also opened in ancient profane buildings, such as that of Santa Maria Maggiore in a private basilica and the other of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in the ancient Sessoriano palace, former home of Helen, mother of Constantine; so that the new could not easily make its way through the combined meters of the old. And in the new buildings, in patches, the need is felt to conform to the ancient ruins reassembled in the Christian church. The whirlwinds of invasions passed since the 5th century; and although no new element of art brought the barbarians invaders of Italy, unadorned with studs, fibulae, necklaces, of weapons with garnets, crystals and gems, the chromatic effect of their goldsmith works harmonized well with all the other manifestations of Christian art, every day more alien to human images, less and less determined in form. So much so that it came to practical iconoclasm, to the destruction of images, in the new capital of the civilized world, Byzantium; in Italy, not adverse to the representative arts for religious reasons and the traditions of its people, to artistic iconoclasm, that is to the growing subordination of the image to floral and geometric decoration. According to the common criteria regarding the centuries that preceded the age of Dante, Giotto, Giovanni Pisano, there was a deep haze of barbarism in them, only because by art was meant form, especially of the human figure. But if in this respect the Middle Ages were barbaric,

Italy Figurative Arts 3