“The highest art is always the most religious, and the greatest artist is always a devout person.” Abraham Lincoln
Many argue about what art is and how deeply embodied it is in our cultural and religious life. Although there is isn’t a established definition of what art is, in this article we will attempt to aid you in understanding what the essence of art is and thus how art has embodied itself in religious expressionism. Some outstanding religious mosaics of the ancient and modern world follow suit.
So what is Art?
The Russian intellectual, Leo Tolstoy – one of the greatest writers of all time, gives us his definition on what art is according to his influences:
“Art is not, as the metaphysicians say, the manifestation of some mysterious idea of beauty or God; it is not, as the aesthetical physiologists say, a game in which man lets off his excess of stored-up energy; it is not the expression of man’s emotions by external signs; it is not the production of pleasing objects; and, above all, it is not pleasure; but it is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.” Leo Tolstoy
Producing art is a means of externalizing, expressing and promoting ideas, personal thoughts, concepts and beliefs. Art has a unique way of exhibiting and disseminating any individual’s feelings. The very importance of art lies on the unforced excitement of the human senses and the tense stimulation of the mind and subsequent emotions during its practice or its creation.
What is the relation of Art & Religion?
A very unique, almost supernatural feature of art is its ability to allow an individual to connect with people sharing same mentality, interest and beliefs and most importantly – it creates an effective platform for communication, understanding; ultimately leading to the exchanging of ideas through artworks. Besides its aesthetic appeal, artworks create feelings of joy, satisfaction & unification between followers and believers. Religious art is a material expression of the religious sentiment, simultaneous interpretation and testimonial.
Below is a collection of five religious mosaics derived from Churches and contemporary artists:
Mosaic Portrait of Justinian the First
Above is a religious mosaic portrait of the East Roman Emperor Justinian the First which was created in Basilica of San Vitale, a very famous religious temple in Ravenna, Italy. The mosaic artwork is located at the foot of the apse side walls, together with the portrait of his wife Theodora. The famous emperor is displayed wearing a royal purple overcoat with a golden halo and crown indicating the emperor’s royalty and axiom. At last, with meticulous attention the mosaic artist beautifully outlined the emperor’s chevron next to the brooch of his robe, designating his absolute military authority of the Christian Roman Empire.
Mosaic Portrait of Theodora the First
This is a mosaic portrait of the empress and wife of Justinian the First – Theodora. She was a highly intellectual individual who attained a naturally occurring leadership role alongside her husband – she was capable of sustaining and advancing the Empire into realms the Byzantines had never witnessed before. The religious mosaic portrait is handcrafted & created with natural multicolored stones in an array of sizes and shapes. The Empress is presented with a golden halo, impressive crown and prestigious jewels to emerge her true goddess-like beauty and to aesthetically establish her royal status. The mosaics in the Basilica San Vitale are certainly the most important mosaics of late-antique Christian art.
Portrait of Virgin Mary
This masterpiece is without a doubt one of the most meticulously handcrafted artworks found in the Italo- New Roman Empire. This is an 11th Century Christian mosaic creation whose creator still remains unknown to the public and is currently being exhibited at the Civic Museum in Bologna.
Portrait of Jesus Christ
This is a contemporary religious mosaic artwork holding the traditional antique look, leaving you with the impression of being in a religious temple without physically having to. This is a beautiful hand-made marble mosaic of Jesus Christ enduring his passion. It is composed of natural stones and hand cut tiles. Pieces like these with outstanding artistry and vividness of color are worth having in your religious personal spaces.
Portrait of St. George
The above religious mosaic artwork is a creation of Anca Sirbu, a Romanian mosaic artist specializing in Byzantine mosaics and paintings. The displayed mosaic is a portrait of St. George who was a soldier in the Roman army, who later became venerated as a Christian martyr. This intrinsically created mosaic is composed using the finest materials gathered from sources around the world. What makes this mosaic stand out is its vibrancy and vividness. Multiple color combinations have been used to create contrasts and very dense layering of folds and patterns.
Got inspired by reading this article ?
Looking for holy decorative ideas to inspire your indoor or outdoor spaces? You can find ideas and unique handcrafted Christian Mosaic Artworks to create a unique and harmonious environment for you and your loved ones.