Sculpture     Architectural sculpture     Mosaic     Painting    

Sculpture and architecture
  Extant Early Byzantine sculpture is mostly related to architecture. Large numbers of carved structural elements, such as capitals, cornices, architraves, door jambs, lintels, and window grilles, served to embellish buidings. Liturgical furniture, namely sanctuary screens, pulpits and altars, were also of carved stone. In the fourth and fifth centuries, Roman motifs were still widely used. Capitals were of the Corinthian type, with volutes at the upper corners and large acanthus leaves below. Their treatment, however, became increasingly stylized and symmetrical, and they were deeply undercut to resemble lacework. In the sixth century, traditional Roman motifs were enriched with oriental (Sassanid Persian) elements, such as the split palms, date palms, and peacocks found in the church of St Polyeuktos. Basket-, impost-, and folded' capitals, with dense tendrils and geometric patterns, adorn St Polyeuktos, Sts Sergios and Bacchos, and St Sophia in Constantinople, as well as several provincial churches. Jeweled' column shafts inlayed with coloured stone and glass were another significant trend.
  The characteristic deeply undercut impost capitals of St Polyeuktos find close parallels in St Sophia and St Vitale, Ravenna. After the completion of Anicia Juliana's church its team of sculptors was partly taken over by Justinian for St Sophia. Some sculptors may have travelled to Ravenna to work for the construction of St Vitale (begun in 521 but not completed until 547). During his stay at Constantinople in 526, Ecclesius, the bishop of Ravenna (521-531), may have visited the church of St Polyeuktos, then still under construction, and discussed the possibility of a commission at Ravenna. It is probable that the capitals in St Vitale had been dispatched from the quarries of Proconnesus in a roughed-out state to be finished on site. The migration of a group of sculptors to the Adriatic is further suggested by several capitals in Ravenna, Porec, Split, and Salona. They all have big-breasted birds at the corners, which are carved in a style similar to that of the St Polyeuktos peacocks, as well as other features which relate them to St Polyeuktos.
  Marble was a favourite material for sculpted decoration, and a status symbol. Various types, including some exotic colored varieties, were quarried around the Meditteranean coasts, and transported in special ships: red porphyry marble came from Egypt, green verde antico from Thessaly (Greece), yellow marble from Tunisia. The whitish, vained marble of Proconessus, on the Sea of Marmara, was extensively used in Constantinople and the nearby provinces. Pre-cut pieces, and metropolitan style with them, were exported along with sculptors that completed the decoration in situ. When marble was not available, local stone was used to reproduce, often with extraordinary skill, the latest trends. Structural elements were normally made to order, but lack of funds and/or materials occasionaly dictated the use of existing pieces, which were taken from despoiled temples and refurbished churches. As a result, columns and capitals of different sizes and shapes adorn major buildings such as St Demetrius at Thessalonika and St Sophia, and stand as proof of an increasing disregard for classical proportions.