My kind of heaven: Byzantium at the National Gallery of Art, DC

When planning an exhibition of Byzantine art, it never hurts to use the words heaven and earth in the show’s title. After all, few other periods of art so explicitly strive to engage the cosmic scope of human and religious experience as the Byzantines did.

Archangel Michael, first half of 14th century, tempera on wood, gold leaf, 110 x 80 cm; Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens

The next show in this tradition is opening October 6 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections will likely have many works familiar to audiences from earlier shows at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Royal Academy of Art in London. The show boasts 170 works from both public and private collections in Greece. I am particularly excited that of the over 1,000 years of art represented in the exhibition, the art from the Palaiologan dynasty forms one of the five thematic sections. That means there will be more attention to the inter-influence between Byzantine and Western artists, crusaders, and patrons. The press release from the NGA indicates there will also be a companion volume to the show with essays on archaeology and important cites within Byzantium. Here’s a short list of some other recent museum exhibitions of Byzantine art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Royal Academy, London

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