Acquiring the Works of The Masters; Then and Now.
Modern art collector hunt for the finest specimens in a certain niche to create a collection of art that is well rounded and meaningful. The practice of collecting religious skilled craft pieces has been going on for more than a thousand years. Many of the first art collectors purchased items that reminded them of their personal beliefs, but others preferred the aesthetics of artifacts from older practices. It may be surprising to learn that many of the very first people to collect artwork chose pieces with a Christian theme.
Early Art Collecting of Ancient Greek Art Lovers
A show at the Onassis Cultural Center recently covered the masterwork pieces that were created during the third to seventh centuries A.D. The Observer reports that these works were all produced during the time when Europe was transitioning from a pagan belief system to the new idea known as Christianity. The empire was struggling with a serious economic depression, but some of the more wealthy citizens still had the money to purchase personal sculptures and oil paintings and keep them in a collection at home. This practice was relatively unheard of before this time-period.
Changes in Aesthetics
The skills and perspective of Ancient Greek artists allowed them to create dynamic scenes featuring clear figurative depictions. Most artwork from this period featured a side view of the subject, but as the Dark Ages dawned, artists transferred to a straight on view instead. The earliest images collected of Christ show him from the front, making the artwork more personable and welcoming. The transition to a Christian religion was not easy for the citizens of that era. The rapid and serious changes destabilized many areas and dissolved a lot of the developments made by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. However, art reached new heights and became a part of many people's lives in a much bigger way.
Light in the Darkness
Although the economic troubles and health problems plaguing this time period made life hard for millions of people, the transition to Christianity gave many of them the strength to continue. The Church saw quick conversions in areas where people needed hope due to loss and illness. Many artists were also moved to start creating images of Christ after struggling with personal hardship. These images can be very compelling, even when they are 1,300 years old. Many Christian art collectors should consider adding prints of both modern and classical works to their collection for a greater appreciation of the diversity and depth of the niche.
What Did They Collect?
Dark Age art collectors were an interesting group of people. Most were wealthy individuals that owned land or were local leaders. Some were part of the Church organization, but others simply attended weekly services. Many added the newest depictions of Christ or the Virgin Mary to their homes to celebrate their new religion. However, paintings and ceramic works from the disappearing pagan religions were also hot items for wealthy collectors. Some of these private collections have provided important details about the past that would have otherwise been lost to time.
The display at the Onassis Center included more than 150 works from the Dark Ages. Most of the works came directly from museums in Greece, according to The Observer. This was the first chance that art lovers had to see many of these beautiful pieces. En-caustic icons of Christ sat next to finely worked ceramic altarpieces from pagan traditions. Members of Greek historical societies were on hand to explain the history behind the works. The exhibition showed that despite the challenges of the Dark Ages, many people managed to find inspiration and create beautiful works of art and from that time forward, there have always been the especially fortunate that may preserve these works of mastery through art collecting.
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