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I saw an exhibit of Byzantine religious art at the Met in NYC, and one thing that stood out was that the crucifixion was relatively less important. There were lots of scenes of Christ's life, but they'd end with a small scene, not a larger emphatic image of Jesus on the cross. My friend suggested the Eastern Christianity was triumphant while Christianity in the west was beleaguered.

A read a book on Ravenna rather recently, and the story was fascinating. Pagan Rome still existed while Byzantine and Gothic kingdoms jostled for roles in the Christian world. If nothing else, Galla Placida's daughter writing mash notes to Atilla the Hun was hilarious. I doubt I'll ever get the Ravenna, but as it soon became a backwater, it has some magnificent art well preserved.

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“There were lots of scenes of Christ's life, but they'd end with a small scene, not a larger emphatic image of Jesus on the cross. My friend suggested the Eastern Christianity was triumphant while Christianity in the west was beleaguered.”

Yup this has been my impression of Eastern vs Western depictions of Christ as well. Any thoughts on what drove the difference here?

I’ve always thought that it was simply more challenging technically for artists in the West to display the crucifixion (contortions, pain) -which is why they did it so much.

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My impression: The different world views had to do with the decline of the western empire. If nothing else, Rome's power and control had weakened, so there were Goth kingdoms, Germanic kingdoms and a host of others. Many of them Christianized, but the long period of imperial peace and dominance had been disrupted. Throw in invaders, like the Huns, Alans and Vandals, who successfully took over parts of the western empire, and it was easy to believe the end days were near. Back in the eastern empire, there was a still a strong centralized empire with an effective army. Christianity was still triumphant.

Ravenna peaked well before Charlemagne was crowned in Rome in 800. Judging from the art from roughly 400-800, I don't think artists of that era were all that concerned with capturing emotional details. I got the impression that is more a Renaissance thing. So much of the earlier art was stylized and iconic, even images of the Crucifixion. In Ravenna, a lot of the work was meant to dazzle with its opulence and workmanship. If it was just about portraying agony, there were all those stations of the cross to challenge one's artistic abilities.

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A pleasant reflection on Ravenna. Those who have not been may enjoy the panoramic scenes in the amuz app (iOS and apple silicon macs)

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/amuz/id1071762063

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