ITALIAN PAINTING. EARLY CHRISTIAN AND MEDIÆVAL PERIOD. 200-1250.

Books Recommended: Bayet, L'Art Byzantin; Bennett, Christian Archæology; Bosio, La Roma Sotterranea; Burckhardt, The Cicerone, an Art Guide to Painting in Italy, ed. by Crowe; Crowe and Cavalcaselle, New History of Painting in Italy; De Rossi, La Roma Sotterranea Cristiana; De Rossi, Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana; Didron, Christian Iconography; Eastlake (Kügler's),Handbook of Painting—The Italian Schools; Garrucci, Storia dell' Arte Cristiana; Gerspach, La Mosaïque; Lafenestre, La Peinture Italienne; Lanzi, History of Painting in Italy; Lecoy de la Marche,Les Manuscrits et la Miniature; Lindsay, Sketches of the History of Christian Art; Martigny, Dictionnaire des Antiques Chrétiennes; Pératé, L'Archeologie Chretienne; Reber, History of Mediæval Art; Rio, Poetry of Christian Art; Lethaby, Medieval Art; Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities.

RISE OF CHRISTIANITY: Out of the decaying civilization of Rome sprang into life that remarkable growth known as Christianity. It was not welcomed by the Romans. It was scoffed at, scourged, persecuted, and, at one time, nearly exterminated. But its vitality was stronger than that of its persecutor, and when Rome declined, Christianity utilized the things that were Roman, while striving to live for ideas that were Christian.

FIG. 17.—CHAMBER IN CATACOMBS, SHOWING WALL DECORATION.FIG. 17.—CHAMBER IN CATACOMBS, SHOWING WALL DECORATION.

There was no revolt, no sudden change. The Christian idea made haste slowly, and at the start it was weighed down with many paganisms. The Christians themselves in all save religious faith, were Romans, and inherited Roman tastes, manners, and methods. But the Roman world, with all its classicism and learning, was dying. The decline socially and intellectually was with the Christians as well as the Romans. There was good reason for it. The times were out of joint, and almost everything was disorganized, worn out, decadent. The military life of the Empire had begun to give way to the monastic and feudal life of the Church. Quarrels and wars between the powers kept life at fever heat. In the fifth century came the inpouring of the Goths and Huns, and with them the sacking and plunder of the land. Misery and squalor, with intellectual blackness, succeeded. Art, science, literature, and learning degenerated to mere shadows of their former selves, and a semi-barbarism reigned for five centuries. During all this dark period Christian painting struggled on in a feeble way, seeking to express itself. It started Roman in form, method, and even, at times, in subject; it ended Christian, but not without a long period of gradual transition, during which it was influenced from many sources and underwent many changes.

ART MOTIVES: As in the ancient world, there were two principal motives for painting in early Christian times—religion and decoration. Religion was the chief motive, but Christianity was a very different religion from that of the Greeks and Romans. The Hellenistic faith was a worship of nature, a glorification of humanity, an exaltation of physical and moral perfections. It dealt with the material and the tangible, and Greek art appealed directly to the sensuous and earthly nature of mankind. The Hebraic faith or Christianity was just the opposite of this. It decried the human, the flesh, and the worldly. It would have nothing to do with the beauty of this earth. Its hopes were centred upon the life hereafter. The teaching of Christ was the humility and the abasement of the human in favor of the spiritual and the divine. Where Hellenism appealed to the senses, Hebraism appealed to the spirit. In art the fine athletic figure, or, for that matter, any figure, was an abomination. The early Church fathers opposed it. It was forbidden by the Mosaic decalogue and savored of idolatry.