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Christian art is sacred art which uses subjects, themes, and imagery from Christianity. Most Christian groups use or have used art to some extent, including early Christian art and architecture and Christian media.
Images of Jesus and narrative scenes from the Life of Christ are the most common subjects, and scenes from the Old Testament play a part in the art of most denominations. Images of the Virgin Mary and saints are much rarer in Protestant art than that of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
Christianity makes far wider use of images than related religions, in which figurative representations are forbidden, such as Islam and Judaism. However, there are some that have promoted aniconism in Christianity, and there have been periods of iconoclasm within Christianity, though this is not a common interpretation of Christian theology.
Early Christian art survives from dates near the origins of Christianity, although many early Christians associated figurative art with pagan religion, and were suspicious or hostile towards it. Hans Belting wrote that "in late antiquity... Christianity adopted the cult images of the "pagans", in a complete reversal of its original attitude, and developed an image practice of its own." But large free-standing sculpture, the medium for the most prominent pagan images, continued to be distrusted and largely shunned for some centuries, and virtually up to the present day in the Orthodox world.The oldest Christian sculptures are small reliefs from Roman sarcophagi, dating to the beginning of the 2nd century. The largest groups of Early Christian paintings come from the tombs in the Catacombs of Rome, and show the evolution of the depiction of Jesus, a process not complete until the 6th century, since when the conventional appearance of Jesus in art has remained remarkably consistent.
Until the adoption of Christianity by Constantine Christian art derived its style and much of its iconography from popular Roman art, but from this point grand Christian buildings built under imperial patronage brought a need for Christian versions of Roman elite and official art, of which mosaics in churches in Rome are the most prominent surviving examples. Christian art was caught up in, but did not originate, the shift in style from the classical tradition inherited from Ancient Greek art to a less realist and otherworldly hieratic style, the start of gothic art.
Much of the art surviving from Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire is Christian art, although this in large part because the continuity of church ownership has preserved church art better than secular works. While the Western Roman Empire's political structure essentially collapsed after the fall of Rome, its religious hierarchy, what is today the modern-day Roman Catholic Church commissioned and funded production of religious art imagery.
The Orthodox Church of Constantinople, which enjoyed greater stability within the surviving Eastern Empire was key in commissioning imagery there and glorifying Christianity. As a stable Western European society emerged during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church led the way in terms of art, using its resources to commission paintings and sculptures.
During the development of Christian art in the Byzantine Empire (see Byzantine art), a more abstract aesthetic replaced the naturalism previously established in Hellenistic art. This new style was hieratic, meaning its primary purpose was to convey religious meaning rather than accurately render objects and people. Realistic perspective, proportions, light and colour were ignored in favour of geometric simplification of forms, reverse perspective and standardized conventions to portray individuals and events. The controversy over the use of graven images, the interpretation of the Second Commandment, and the crisis of Byzantine Iconoclasm led to a standardization of religious imagery within the Eastern Orthodoxy.
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 brought an end to the highest quality Byzantine art, produced in the Imperial workshops there. Orthodox art, known as icons regardless of the medium, has otherwise continued with relatively little change in subject and style up to the present day, with Russia gradually becoming the leading centre of production.
In the West, the Renaissance saw an increase in monumental secular works, although Christian art continued to be commissioned in great quantities by churches, clergy and by the aristocracy. The Reformation had a huge impact on Christian art; Martin Luther in Germany allowed and encouraged the display of a more limited range of religious imagery in churches, seeing the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a continuation of the "ancient, apostolic church".Lutheran altarpieces like the 1565 Last Supper by the younger Cranach were produced in Germany, especially by Luther's friend Lucas Cranach, to replace Catholic ones, often containing portraits of leading reformers as the apostles or other protagonists, but retaining the traditional depiction of Jesus. As such, "Lutheran worship became a complex ritual choreography set in a richly furnished church interior." Lutherans proudly employed the use of the crucifix as it highlighted their high view of the Theology of the Cross. Thus, for Lutherans, "the Reformation renewed rather than removed the religious image." On the other hand, Christians from a Reformed background were generally iconoclastic, destroying existing religious imagery and usually only creating more in the form of book illustrations.
Artists were commissioned to produce more secular genres like portraits, landscape paintings and because of the revival of Neoplatonism, subjects from classical mythology. In Catholic countries, production of religious art continued, and increased during the Counter-Reformation, but Catholic art was brought under much tighter control by the church hierarchy than had been the case before. From the 18th century the number of religious works produced by leading artists declined sharply, though important commissions were still placed, and some artists continued to produce large bodies of religious art on their own initiative.
As a secular, non-sectarian, universal notion of art arose in 19th-century Western Europe, ancient and Medieval Christian art began to be collected for art appreciation rather than worship, while contemporary Christian art was considered marginal. Occasionally, secular artists treated Christian themes (Bouguereau, Manet) — but only rarely was a Christian artist included in the historical canon (such as Rouault or Stanley Spencer). However many modern artists such as Eric Gill, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink and Graham Sutherland have produced well-known works of art for churches.Salvador Dalí is an artist who had also produced notable and popular artworks with Christian themes. Contemporary artists such as Makoto Fujimura have had significant influence both in sacred and secular arts. Other notable artists include Larry D. Alexander and John August Swanson. Some writers, such as Gregory Wolfe, see this as part of a rebirth of Christian humanism.
Since the advent of printing, the sale of reproductions of pious works has been a major element of popular Christian culture. In the 19th century, this included genre painters such as Mihály Munkácsy. The invention of color lithography led to broad circulation of holy cards. In the modern era, companies specializing in modern commercial Christian artists such as Thomas Blackshear and Thomas Kinkade, although widely regarded in the fine art world as kitsch,have been very successful.
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Subjects often seen in Christian art include the following. See Life of Christ and Life of the Virgin for fuller lists of narrative scenes included in cycles:
The Virgin Mary is shown spinning and weaving, appearing in artworks with a loom or knitting needles, weaving cloth over her womb, or knitting for her son. The imagery, much of it German, places the sacred narratives in the domestic realm.She is shown weaving in paintings of The Annunciation, or spinning. Although spinning was less common an example is found in some convents where nuns would spin silk, presumably to create a link between the convent community of women and the image of the Mary.
Lutherans continued to worship in pre-Reformation churches, generally with few alterations to the interior. It has even been suggested that in Germany to this day one finds more ancient Marian altarpieces in Lutheran than in Catholic churches. Thus in Germany and in Scandinavia many pieces of medieval art and architecture survived. Joseph Leo Koerner has noted that Lutherans, seeing themselves in the tradition of the ancient, apostolic church, sought to defend as well as reform the use of images. "An empty, white-washed church proclaimed a wholly spiritualized cult, at odds with Luther's doctrine of Christ's real presence in the sacraments" (Koerner 2004, 58). In fact, in the 16th century some of the strongest opposition to destruction of images came not from Catholics but from Lutherans against Calvinists: "You black Calvinist, you give permission to smash our pictures and hack our crosses; we are going to smash you and your Calvinist priests in return" (Koerner 2004, 58). Works of art continued to be displayed in Lutheran churches, often including an imposing large crucifix in the sanctuary, a clear reference to Luther's theologia crucis. ... In contrast, Reformed (Calvinist) churches are strikingly different. Usually unadorned and somewhat lacking in aesthetic appeal, pictures, sculptures, and ornate altar-pieces are largely absent; there are few or no candles, and crucifixes or crosses are also mostly absent.
As it developed in north-eastern Germany, Lutheran worship became a complex ritual choreography set in a richly furnished church interior. This much is evident from the background of an epitaph pained in 1615 by Martin Schulz, destined for the Nikolaikirche in Berlin (see Figure 5.5.).
In fact, Lutherans often justified their continued use of medieval crucifixes with the same arguments employed since the Middle Ages, as is evident from the example of the altar of the Holy Cross in the Cistercian church of Doberan.
According to Koerner, who dwells on Lutheran art, the Reformation renewed rather than removed the religious image.
A crucifix is a cross with an image of Jesus on it, as distinct from a bare cross. The representation of Jesus himself on the cross is referred to in English as the corpus.
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, in the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and Eastern Catholic churches. They are not simply artworks; "an icon is a sacred image used in religious devotion". The most common subjects include Christ, Mary, saints and angels. Although especially associated with portrait-style images concentrating on one or two main figures, the term also covers most religious images in a variety of artistic media produced by Eastern Christianity, including narrative scenes, usually from the Bible or the lives of saints.
Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons. People who engage in or support iconoclasm are called iconoclasts, a term that has come to be figuratively applied to any individual who challenges "cherished beliefs or venerated institutions on the grounds that they are erroneous or pernicious."
In art, a Madonna is a representation of Mary, either alone or with her child Jesus. These images are central icons for both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The word is from Italian ma donna 'my lady' (archaic). The Madonna and Child type is very prevalent in Christian iconography, divided into many traditional subtypes especially in Eastern Orthodox iconography, often known after the location of a notable icon of the type, such as the Theotokos of Vladimir, Agiosoritissa, Blachernitissa, etc., or descriptive of the depicted posture, as in Hodegetria, Eleusa, etc.
Religious art is artistic imagery using religious inspiration and motifs and is often intended to uplift the mind to the spiritual. Sacred art involves the ritual and cultic practices and practical and operative aspects of the path of the spiritual realization within the artist's religious tradition.
Early Christian art and architecture or Paleochristian art is the art produced by Christians or under Christian patronage from the earliest period of Christianity to, depending on the definition used, sometime between 260 and 525. In practice, identifiably Christian art only survives from the 2nd century onwards. After 550 at the latest, Christian art is classified as Byzantine, or of some other regional type.
Iconography, as a branch of art history, studies the identification, description and interpretation of the content of images: the subjects depicted, the particular compositions and details used to do so, and other elements that are distinct from artistic style. The word iconography comes from the Greek εἰκών ("image") and γράφειν.
Religious images in Christian theology have a role within the liturgical and devotional life of adherents of certain Christian denominations. The use of religious images has often been a contentious issue in Christian history. Concern over idolatry is the driving force behind the various traditions of aniconism in Christianity.
The two kingdoms doctrine is a Protestant Christian doctrine that teaches that God is the ruler of the whole world and that he. The doctrine is held by Lutherans and represents the view of some Calvinists. John Calvin significantly modified Martin Luther's original two kingdoms doctrine and certain neo-Calvinists have adopted a different view known as transformationalism.
The term Evangelical Catholic is used in Lutheranism, alongside the term Augsburg Catholic, with those calling themselves Evangelical Catholic Lutherans or Lutherans of Evangelical Catholic churchmanship stressing the catholicity of historic Lutheranism in liturgy, beliefs, practices, and doctrines. Evangelical Catholics teach that Lutheranism at its core "is deeply and fundamentally catholic". The majority of Evangelical Catholic Lutheran clergy and parishes are members of mainstream Lutheran denominations.
Most denominations of Christianity have not generally practiced aniconism, or the avoidance or prohibition of types of images, even dating back to early Christian art and architecture. Those in the faith have generally had an active tradition of making artwork and Christian media depicting God, religious figures, and other aspects of theology. There have however been periods of aniconism in Christian history, notably during the controversy of the Byzantine iconoclasm of the eighth century, and following the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, when Calvinism in particular rejected all images in churches, and this practice continues today in some Reformed (Calvinist) churches, as well as some forms of fundamentalist Christianity. The Catholic Church has always defended the use of sacred images in churches, shrines, and homes, encouraging their veneration but condemning anyone who would worship them as if they were gods themselves.
The Protestant Reformation during the 16th century in Europe almost entirely rejected the existing tradition of Catholic art, and very often destroyed as much of it as it could reach. A new artistic tradition developed, producing far smaller quantities of art that followed Protestant agendas and diverged drastically from the southern European tradition and the humanist art produced during the High Renaissance. The Lutheran churches, as they developed, accepted a limited role for larger works of art in churches, and also encouraged prints and book illustrations. Calvinists remained steadfastly opposed to art in churches, and suspicious of small printed images of religious subjects, though generally fully accepting secular images in their homes.
Catholic art is art produced by or for members of the Catholic Church. This includes visual art (iconography), sculpture, decorative arts, applied arts, and architecture. In a broader sense, Catholic music and other art may be included as well. Expressions of art may or may not attempt to illustrate, supplement and portray in tangible form Catholic teaching. Catholic art has played a leading role in the history and development of Western art since at least the 4th century. The principal subject matter of Catholic art has been the life and times of Jesus Christ, along with people associated with him, including his disciples, the saints, and motifs from the Catholic Bible.
Lutheran Mariology or Lutheran Marian theology is derived from Martin Luther's views of Mary, the mother of Jesus and these positions have influenced those taught by the Lutheran Churches. Lutheran Mariology developed out of the deep Christian Marian devotion on which Luther was reared, and it was subsequently clarified as part of his mature Christocentric theology and piety. Lutherans hold Mary in high esteem, universally teaching the dogmas of the Theotokos and the Virgin Birth. Luther dogmatically asserted what he considered firmly established biblical doctrines such as the divine motherhood of Mary while adhering to pious opinions of the Immaculate Conception and the perpetual virginity of Mary, along with the caveat that all doctrine and piety should exalt and not diminish the person and work of Jesus Christ. By the end of Luther's theological development, his emphasis was always placed on Mary as merely a receiver of God's love and favour. His opposition to regarding Mary as a mediatrix of intercession or redemption was part of his greater and more extensive opposition to the belief that the merits of the saints could be added to those of Jesus Christ to save humanity. Lutheran denominations may differ in their teaching with respect to various Marian doctrines and have contributed to producing ecumenical meetings and documents on Mary.
Mary has been one of the major subjects of Western Art for centuries. There is an enormous quantity of Marian art in the Catholic Church, covering both devotional subjects such as the Virgin and Child and a range of narrative subjects from the Life of the Virgin, often arranged in cycles. Most medieval painters, and from the Reformation to about 1800 most from Catholic countries, have produced works, including old masters such as Michelangelo and Botticelli.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christianity:
Crucifixions and crucifixes have appeared in the arts and popular culture from before the era of the pagan Roman Empire. The crucifixion of Jesus has been depicted in religious art since the 4th century CE. In more modern times, crucifixion has appeared in film and television as well as in fine art, and depictions of other historical crucifixions have appeared as well as the crucifixion of Christ. Modern art and culture have also seen the rise of images of crucifixion being used to make statements unconnected with Christian iconography, or even just used for shock value.
For about a thousand years, in obedience to interpretations of specific Bible passages, pictorial depictions of God in Western Christianity had been avoided by Christian artists. At first only the Hand of God, often emerging from a cloud, was portrayed. Gradually, portrayals of the head and later the whole figure were depicted, and by the time of the Renaissance artistic representations of God the Father were freely used in the Western Church.
The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the crucifixion of Jesus on a large wooden cross, is a renowned symbol of Christianity. It is related to the crucifix and to the more general family of cross symbols, the term cross itself being detached from the original specifically Christian meaning in modern English.
Lutheran art consists of all religious art produced for Lutherans and the Lutheran churches. This includes sculpture, painting, and architecture. Artwork in the Lutheran churches arose as a distinct marker of the faith during the Reformation era and attempted to illustrate, supplement and portray in tangible form the teachings of Lutheran theology.