Macedonian art (Byzantine)

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David et Goliath, from the Paris Psalter.
David playing the harp, from the Paris Psalter.

Macedonian art (sometimes called the Macedonian Renaissance) was a period in Byzantine art which began with the reign of the Emperor Basil I of the Macedonian dynasty in 867. The period followed the lifting of the ban on icons (iconoclasm) and lasted until the fall of the dynasty in the mid-eleventh century. It coincided with the Ottonian Renaissance in Western Europe. In the ninth and tenth centuries, the Empire's military situation improved, and art and architecture revived. New churches were again commissioned, and the Byzantine church mosaic style became standardised. The best preserved examples are at the Hosios Lukas Monastery in mainland Greece and the Nea Moni Katholikon in the island of Chios. The very free frescoes at Castelseprio in Italy are linked by many art historians to the art of Constantinople of the period also. There was a revival of interest in classical themes (of which the Paris Psalter is an important testimony) and more sophisticated techniques were used to depict human figures.

The 11th-century monastery of Hosios Lukas in Greece is representative of the Byzantine art during the rule of the Macedonian dynasty (Macedonian Renaissance).

Although monumental sculpture is extremely rare in Byzantine art, the Macedonian period saw the unprecedented flourishing of the art of ivory sculpture. Many ornate ivory triptychs and diptychs survive, with the central panel often representing either deesis (as in the Harbaville Triptych) or the Theotokos (as in a triptych at Luton Hoo, dating from the reign of Nicephorus Phocas). On the other hand, ivory caskets (notably the Veroli Casket from Victoria and Albert Museum) often feature secular motifs true to the Hellenistic tradition, thus testifying to an undercurrent of classical taste in Byzantine art.

There are few important surviving buildings from the period. It is presumed that Basil I's votive church of the Theotokos of Phoros (no longer extant) served as a model for most cross-in-square sanctuaries of the period, including the monastery church of Hosios Lukas in Greece (ca. 1000), the Nea Moni of Chios (a pet project of Constantine IX), and the Daphni Monastery near Athens (ca. 1050).

See also[edit]


  • J. Durand, L'art byzantin, Terrail, Paris, 2001
  • J-M. Spieser, "L'art de Byzance", in C. Heck (dir.) Moyen âge, chrétienté et Islam, flammarion, Paris, 1996

Further reading[edit]