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Classical and Christian Pictorial Model

Classical and Christian Pictorial Model

Classical pictorial model mainly was practiced in the Greek and to some extent in the Roman Empire. There was the belief in a supernatural power but people did not have a particular deity. As a result, they had images which they worshipped. Some of those images were represented in paintings and carvings. They believed that these paintings and pictures represented the supernatural power that they believed. Christian pictorial models came with the death of Christ. In the early stages of Christianity, it was mainly found among the Hebrews. There were no religious paintings as it is prohibited in the Bible. When Christ who was the founder of Christian faith rose to heaven, he left the disciples with the message to spread the gospel to all parts of the world. In the obedience of this command, they took the gospel to the pagans. The pagans had the culture of painting and they brought that culture to their new faith. The paper discusses the development of both the classical and the Christian pictorial models and elaborates on the time each occurred and the factors that contributed the rise as well as looks at how one affected the other.

Development of Classical Pictorial Models

Both the classical and Christian pictorial models had the religious goal. The intention was to bring out the representation of a power that they believed in but could not visualize it (Gruber 1). Therefore, images and paintings were made to show some of the characteristics of the deities they believed. In the classical pictorial models, there was no definite representation but different artists depicted what they believed. On the other hand, the Christian pictorial model had all its inspiration from the Bible.

Lorenzo Ghiberti is credited with dividing the history of art into three. H named them as classical, medieval and modern. Most of the classical pieces of art and paintings were lost. They came to be known as the Greco-Roman models and their only preservation was in writing by Pliny and Vitruvius. They drew their inspiration from pagan themes and from natural phenomenon. It was followed by a long period of stagnation. During this period which could have been centuries, it is thought that art was not being practiced. There was an effort to revive the art again by Giotto.

For a long time, it was not clear what led to the decline of Roman art for such a period. The puzzle was solved by Ghiberti. By identifying the date when the decline began, he was able to come with an explanation of what could have happened.  The Roman Empire was divided into empire was under the rule of Constantine and he converted to Christianity at around AD 312. There were pictures statues and sculptures all over the Roman Empire at around this period. The pieces of art were held in great respect and some of them had religious meaning. When Constantine converted to Christianity, there was war on idolatry. All the images that resembled an idol were destroyed. So he ordered the destruction of all the pieces of art in the empire. Furthermore, any attempt to have such was seen as going against the word of the rulers and the punishment was very severe. For a period of more than six hundred years, there was no art. Later there was the effort to revive it but the effort was not worth the while. There was no organization and the painting s were not anywhere near the paintings of the ancient Greeks.

Development of the Christian Pictorial Models

The pagans who converted to Christianity mainly believed in idols. They had statues and paintings of the idols they worshipped. When they converted too Christianity, they did not wish to abandon their use of paintings and statues. However, they could not use them in their new faith which condemned idolatry. They had to learn about the doctrines of the new faith. There was also the restriction on the images that they could use. Christ, who was the founder of the Christian faith, could not be depicted in paintings or statues. Therefore, they adopted the use of the stories in the Old Testament which they represented in paintings. Not that they were worshipping these pieces of art but they were using them to illustrate what was in the Bible (Patton 393).

There was more belief in life after death and Romans abandoned their way of disposing their dead. They adapted to burying their dead. Those who were place high in the society had carvings at their places of burial (Jensen 23). An example of this is the sarcophagus of Junius Bassus who was among the ruling class in Rome. There was the discovery of more sarcophagi and catacombs that belonged to the early Christians. As time went by, the early Christians started to have the images of Christ either as a crucifix or of Him enthroned in glory. Other pieces of art emerged that depicted Christ as a philosopher and a teacher. There were also those of Paul the Apostle.

The classical pictorial model was replaced by the Christian pictorial model. In the early stages of the spread of Christianity, use of any pieces of art was seen as idolatry and it was highly discouraged. In fact, there was a lot of destruction of the pieces of art in a move to end the idolatry. That action brought to an end to the classical pictorial model. As an illustration, Durer, who was renowned artist thought of the early Christians as oppressors of art. It was not until later that there was the resumption of secular art when it was no longer thought to be idolatry.

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