Ernst Kitzinger was one of the great pioneers in the study of Byzantine art. His clear and detailed exposition regarding "Late Antique Art" and the basis for the origins of early Byzantine art is unparalleled even though some 45 years have past since he put pen to paper. Kitzinger's stylistic and iconographic analysis of the Classical and Early Christian artistic sources that gradually evolved into Byzantine reveal both his knowledge and visual acumen. This book is a pleasure to read, though it was certainly written for the specialist. From the 2nd century AD through the third and early fourth century AD art of the Roman Empire, Kitzinger presents a detailed examination of triumphal relief sculpture, sarcophagi sculpture, and portraiture in order to explain what is to come and why, as the art of the surviving Christianized Eastern Roman Empire began to take shape following the reign of Constantine the Great.
The Arch of Constantine is a center piece of Kitzinger's discourse and rightly so. I would suggest that this great monument should not only be recognized as the last great pagan construct in the city of Imperial Rome but should also be recognized - through a complex symbolism found on the Arch as well as its location within the city of Rome - as the first "Christian" monument above ground. As the Eastern Empire became more and more separated from its Western counterpart, a new art - "Byzantine" - came forth and endured for more than a thousand years until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Yet, transferred to Russia and the Italy of the proto-Renaissance, Byzantine art and its influence continued for centuries more. We are still re-discovering the art and architecture of this great civilization which was once "lost to the West". Here is the book that reveals its "Beginning".