Classical Period

As the Classical Period drew to a close, with the collapse and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century, Europe entered the Medieval Period. This 1000 year stretch between the Roman and Renaissance eras was characterized by a relative stagnation of arts and sciences in Europe. Not all art disappeared or faded away, however. In the eastern Mediterranean Basin, the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire continued to grow for 500 years after Rome fell. The Byzantines conquered much of Italy, and brought their artistic traditions to the peninsula. Their stylistic influence in Italian art continued to be felt into the late 1300’s. During this period, artwork in Italy consisted mainly of architectural decorations: primarily frescoes, but also sculpture and statuary that could be mounted on buildings. Like elsewhere in Europe, Medieval Italian churches were frequently adorned with gargoyles, small demonic-looking statues that decorated the spouts of rain gutters. Byzantine influence in this period was highly formalized, and centered on the fine calligraphy seen in frescoes, and the use of color, especially gold in paintings such as church icons. As the Medieval period wore one, artists in Italy and elsewhere, began to experiment with new techniques in an attempt to recapture the presumed perfection of classical Greece and Roman artists. Their strides in this direction led them into the Renaissance.