Lecture 3: Continuity & Discontinuity
The Arch of Constantine
-Erected in 315 A.D. to commemorate Constantine’s victory over Maxentius in
312, at the Milvian Bridge in Rome. Similar arches became triumphal
architectures under the Roman rule. France, England and Germany also have
their own triumphant arches.
-According to legend, Constantine had a dream that God told him to equip his
army with crosses in order to defeat Maxentius. The next day, Constantine did
and won the battle. When crowned emperor, Constantine contracted a skin
disease. He had a dream and was instructed to find an exiled pope for cure. He
did so and was cured. Convinced that all this was made possible by divine
intervention, Constantine was baptized and became the first Christian emperor.
-According to the legends, Constantine built the first official Christian buildings in
Rome, such as the Lateran, Old Saint Peter’s and Old Saint-Paul’s. These
basilicas are known as the Constantinian basilicas.
-Unlike other arches, Constantine’s arch focuses not on the triumph but on iconic
doings of emperor such as hunting and entering cities. The Constantinian frieze
shows a sequence of specific historical events but does not include triumphal
scenes as Constantine never claimed triumph over Maxentius despite the
reference to Constantine's victories on the arch. Two short inscriptions inside of
the central archway support this statement. The inscription says: Constantine
liberated Rome from occupation and founder of peace.
-Like the early Christian basilicas, the arch was not conceived ex novo (from
scratch). It contained original spolias from monuments of different locations and
times. Renaissance people and modern art historians are aware of the difference in quality and execution. Raphael’s view of spolias voices a notion of decadence
and decline or the idea of a discontinuity of fine classical art.
-Constantine used spolias from his predecessors because of the Constantinian
program of imperial propaganda, which would be a radical set of changes in
Roman visual practice. Spolias of the past that are used to bolster the present
authority of a new dynasty were underwritten by an intense visual program
rooted in the past.
-This has to be seen as an exceptional act of collecting spolia which
accompanied the inauguration of Constantinople. Thus, it is seen as a kind of
-When he incorporate statues of his predecessors to the arch, Constantine
replaced their features with his own. This act can be seen as him assimilating the
past to the present or, as Damnatio Memoriae. However, Elsner claims it is not
damnatio memoriae but a way of putting himself in their shoes.
The church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople
-He wanted to be buried in a Christian mausoleum dedicated to the Holy
Apostles. Inside this church, Constantine assembled the relics of the twelve
apostles to make himself the thirteenth apostle. Christian spolia are bones of the
dead.This church was destroyed by Mehmet the Conqueror to erect the Fatih
Mosque. Thus, nothing is left of this original Constantinian church.
-The Arch is an imperial succession while the church of the Holy Apostles is an
Lecture 4: Hagia Sophia -The Byzantine state was regarded as a continuation of the empire of ancient
Rome and as divinely ordained. The Byzantine emperor, the Basileus, was the
head of the state. His powers were described as absolute and sacred. After
Justinian's victory in Turkey, he decided to build the Hagia Sophia, probably to
commemorate his victory. It was built with spolias from Roma, Ephesus and
-Byzantium structure of the Church differed from the West. The interior of the
Basilica has a longitudinal plan but the Hagia Sophia's interior is a central plan
and follows the Greek cross plan (Greek cross represents even). The church was
consecrated in December 562, under emperor Justinian I the Great.The Hagia
Sophia has the axis of a basilica but is virtually a central plan.
-The impact of the Hagia Sophia relied in great part on its enormous height and
width. It is part of the city and yet, stands very much by itself. It is bulky yet
harmonious. The architects were Anthemios and Isidoros, who were not
architects but were skilled in theoretical knowledge. Thus, architectural protocols
were ignored and the building of the grand church was merely through
experimenting. However it is nearly immune to earthquakes and complex vaulting
system that resulted a grand dome makes it a sheer miracle. The building
represents heaven and earth, the apostles, prophets, martyrs and God in a
-When the Turkish conquerers took over the church, figural mosaics were
painted over and four shields inscribed with Quran verses.
-The interior decoration of the the Dahpni, church of the Dormition, demonstrates
a spiritual hierarchy where Christ is above all beings.
-Iconoclasm condemned the making of any visual representation of Jesus or
saints. The only real religious image must be an exact likeness of the prototype
which they considered impossible. Thus for iconoclasts the only true "icon" of
Jesus was the Eucharist, which was believed to be his actual body and blood. By making an icon of Jesus, one is making him more human and less divine which is
-The Byzantine Emperor Leo III ordered the removal of an image of Jesus
prominently placed over the Chalke gate and replace with a cross as it would be
less iconic. Some of those who were assigned to the task were murdered by a
band of iconodules.
-The new concepts of expanding and interlocking spaces could be achieved to
perfection only by applying techniques of construction never before used in such
combination and on such scale. The brick vaults are made so thin and light that
they exert but a minimum of thrust.
Lecture 5: Gothic
-Renaissance: termed by Vasari as modern, orderly classical revival.
-Gothic: Seen as disorderly, monstrous a derogatory term at the time used for
such architecture that was common in France and Germany.
-The Noyon cathedral interior shows a dominance in light and architecture. The
architecture is longitudinal, reaches for the heaven. The structure from above
follows the shape of the latin cross. In Romanesque and Byzantine architecture,
such as the Hagia Sophia, structure is transverse and remains concealed behind
murals largely due to the technical imperfections. In Gothic architecture, the
wonderful precision with which every single block was shaped in the vault
suggests a new esthetic appreciation of the dignity of structural perfection.
-The aesthetic function of these windows is not only the creation of a new
luminosity; the light they admit dramatically under-scores the web of tracery, ribs, and shafts that were designed through geometrical and mathematical knowledge.
Design is solely determined by the pattern of the structural members, vault ribs
-Gothic is not defined by ribbed vaults and pointed arches but by how the
elements are amalgamated in a coherent system. Gothic no longer seeks to
embody God in paintings but through the application of scientific and
mathematical laws by building of these churches; it reflects on history of Christian
thought and opens to the development of Christian metaphysics. The building
essentially represents God and the “model”of the medieval universe. However,
Gothic architecture is not a logical sequel to Romanesque architecture or an
antithesis but a form of Romanesque elements that is of a different style.
-Geometry and mathematics has, for the medieval mind, an anagogical meaning.
According to the moralized bible signifies the scientific approach of how we see
the world and marks the beginning of the century. God created the cosmos with
the compass. By building a church using mathematical and geometrical
principles, one is imitating work of the divine master and is also creating an
orderly architecture as God used numbers to create order in the cosmos. Thus, if
you are educated in the Seven Liberal Arts, you can archive divine wisdom.
-St. Augustine was a prominent figure in the Middle Ages and nobody questioned
his authority. His idea of the universe is one created according to measure and
number and weight as without it, the cosmos would be in chaos, which would be
contradictory to its name as cosmos means order. He also distinguished a mere
craftsmen from an architect, who a scientist in his art. They use Augustinian
aesthetics of number and proportion to construct the church to guide the intellect
from the perception of created things to the invisible truths in God.
-People are not allowed to read in libraries because of the content that may
contaminate minds to revolutionise or defy clerical figures. Thus, knowledge is
also seen through theological lenses.
-Chartres was a university. It has the Seven Liberal Arts on its incarnation portal
arranged symmetrically. The school of Chartres attempted to transform theology
into geometry. The aspects of the theology and cosmology of Chartres placed
emphasis on mathematics, particularly geometry, and the esthetic consequences
of this thought. -The Abbey Church of St. Denis's central portal gives brief descriptions of hell
and are geometrically arranged. The Jamb statues are not free-standing, they
are attached to the columns. During the French revolution, the statues were
beheaded. When you enter the doors of St. Denis, the door portrays the last
judgement as a reminder that you are being judged by God. However, it is not as
graphic or harsh like Conques's rendition of the last judgement
-Saint-Chappelle is a huge reliquary where the King keeps relics he bought from
-The Amiens labyrinth has inscriptions pertaining to the names of a father and
son who were architects to this church. It can be seen as a symbolic
representation of their relationship with reference to Daedalus and Icarus.
-Heavy royal taxation for the purposes of the crusade may have played a role in
the anti-clericalism of the 1240s and 1250s that threatened to burn the unfinished
Amiens down. Other views: church is a sign of economic vitality and welfare of
the city or the construction of the church lead to the collapse of the commune
due to the destructive force of vitiation of the economic life of the city.
Lecture 7: Leonardo Da Vinci
-Giotto's paintings shows early developments of the perspective principle such as
some pictures in the Arena Chapel but it not yet arranged according to
mathematical principles, but it already shows the strive to mirror our reality.
Alberti’s Linear Perspective
-The study of perspective is a Renaissance invention. Basically, perspective has
to made in a certain way and the viewer has to stand at a certain angle of the
painting in order to see the depth and illusion painting creates. -Before Alberti, Masaccio and Masolino were applying mathematical-geometrical
principals to perspectives such as Masaccio’s Trinity. Masaccio tried to merge
the perspective of the picture with the viewpoint of the spectator so as to invite
the viewer into the three-dimensional space. Perspective can also serve as
enhancing an argument. In the Trinity, the skeleton being directly below Christ
depicts memento mori.
-People were well-acquainted with principals of perspective. However, there are
still perspective manupilations to accommodate to the viewer's perspective such
as Dead Christ.
Leonardo Da Vinci
-Anatomical and antiquity research (that has strong single point of construction)
and perspective , studio work result in accuracy of images.
-Madonna on the Rocks: The only significant compositional difference between
the two versions is the fact that Uriel no longer points. Leonardo actually wanted
more money from the church than had been originally agreed. The church
agreed to pay a substantial bonus but not as much as Leonardo wanted. So
Leonardo sold it to a private collector and then made a second copy. So popular
(not scandalous) did these paintings prove that it is believed that he (together
with de Predis brothers) painted a third version, namely, the one kept today in the
Chéramy Collection in Switzerland.
-Mona Lisa's smile is described as sfomato (smokey smile) ans she is a Western
Lecture 8: Jan Van Eyck
-Italian Renaissance = antiquity influences art. Northern Renaissance = reflects
on reality/real life. -The Annunciation has a chapel with gothic influences while the background has
a romanesque perspective.
-Mary represents the beginning.
-The Book of Hours focuses on daily life, reality of life with no antiquity.
-Van Ecyk's painting is not in profile and give precise date of completion unlike
-Pictures are loaded with hidden symbolism that are sometimes
incomprehensible. Hidden symbolism in Bellini's artwork.
-In Rolin Madonna, Mary and child is portrayed while Rolin reads the book of
hours with the two inside the book. Thus, they are in Rolin's mind. The crown on
Mary's head is a personification of the church.
-The Arnolfini Betrothal is made with mathematic