Dagmar E. Sproll
April 3, 2012
In this research paper one will be reading about early Christian art and
about how pagan-inspired themes, classical influences, and its two major tendencies:
naturalism and abstract symbolism. Early Christian art and architecture is the art produced by
Christians or under Christian ruling from the earliest period between about 350 and 525. The
Christian art survived 2nd century’s and onwards. According to Beckwith “after 550 at the latest,
Christian art is classified as Byzantine, but It is also very difficult to know when Christian art
began. Prior to a large amount of Christians they may have been one of the best producing
durable works of art. Although Christianity was largely a religion of the less fortunate in this time
period” (Beckwith,john,2nd edn. 1979), and because of that there is a lack of surviving art due to
the lack of funds for patronage. Even though they had a lack of fund, they still made great work.
Early Christian practiced their religions in secret, and will make perfect catacombs
under Rome to bury their dead and then to practice their religion. Which in earliest times
included baptism and readings from early text. This became the catechism, the art of
catacombs is to celebrate a birth of a hero who teaches in mortal terms. The concepts of the protector healer, teacher and miracle maker are all based on the catechism. The Roman paganism, they worship of traditional gods natural spirits and emperors fail to satisfy peoples search for a meaningful satisfaction of metaphysical needs or guide to an ethical life. According to an article by David Balch “Some of the Traditional Roman state religion fails to satisfy intellectual or emotional needs of lower class paganism, in example: Image of Caesars as god, becomes satirical, deteriorating social values and economic opportunity, at time of great wealth to the privileged is demoralizing, Separation of people from the mystical experience and No ethical or moral teachings as examples” (Balch, David L, 2008, Mohr Siebeck).
The early Christian didn’t not deliberately copy the Isaac group for one of their most
sacred themes, or that they made direct use of symbolism which was connected in their minds
with what they thought was worshiping the devil but in reality their art was influenced and
allowed themselves to be inspired by a form of representation with which many of them were
familiar. In Rome the link which bound Christian with pagan art is painting and not sculptures.
All the earliest discoverys of the catacombs is through the medium of frescoes; sculptured
reliefs did not come into vogue until a later time. As it was shown in the book paganism and
Christianly “these arts were freely
inspired by pagan motives; but on this subject there were two main schools of opinion: (a) the
apologist for a purely Christian art who maintain that the resemblance to pagan contemporary
art is superficial and that we have here the seeds of an entirely new art which was eventually to
revolutionize the world, and (b) those who see in the figures of the good shepherd, the
prophets, virgins and martyrs, nothing but purely pagan designs”(pg. 143).
In Egypt however it is far more difficult to trace the connecting link. Probably the
Earliest Christian design is those worked in purple into the numerous specimens of cloth from
Akmim. Again the decoration of coffins and funerary furniture, which played a huge part in
Egyptain art, may very well have been the stepping stone by which pagan symbolism was
transferred to Christian decoration. The strange part is terra-cotta the medium employed
for the representation of numerous pagan deities, seems to have been forgotten by the early Christians of Egypt, but also one important execption to this appears in the figure of the good...