The Changes in the Styles of Art by Great Emperors Throughout the History

Throughout the vast history of art, emperors have disregarded traditions and started new styles of art in their respected time. Great emperors not only changed the way art was depicted, but altered the mind-set of the society. Two such great leaders are Akhenaton and Constantine. Both are from different eras, yet the transformation in religions is what greatly influenced art of their time periods. The conversion from polytheism to monotheism played a huge role in Akhenaton’s revolutionary art style.

On the other hand, Constantine’s decision to make Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire had a profound impact on Roman Art and ultimately Christian Art.

Akhenaton and Constantine both made profound influences in art, but Constantine effects in architecture can still be seen today.

Before Akhenaton’s era, Egyptian society believed in polytheism§. The art of Ancient Egypt fell into three main periods – The Old, Middle, and New. During most of this time, art endlessly depicts a highly religious and traditionalist society.

Sculpture and painting are highly stylized, following strict conventions and using symbols of religion centered on the afterlife and idealization of the dead, their servants, families and possessions. Canons were implemented for Egyptian Art. Polytheism can be seen throughout Egyptian Art. Sculptures and paintings were of one god, but there were many gods in Egyptian society. An example would be The Palette of King Narmer. Egyptian art is continuous with the exception of Akhenaton.

A sliver in Egyptian history, the Akhenaton period or the Age of Armana, cuts away from mainstream Egyptian art.

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Originally named Amenhotep IV, he changed his named to Akhenaton (“one who serves Aten”) when he converted Egyptian society from polytheism to monotheism ̈. The Armana era was a time for depicting different concepts in art.

Naturalism is introduced into Akhenaton’s art, along with different perspective and openness that was barred in previous times. Akhenaton’s radical change from Egyptian mainstream could be that he had Marfan syndrome. This may have influenced art during this time because if the art continued to be a canon, Akhenation would be depicted as the complete opposite.

Akhenaton wanted to show his disease and therefore changed the canon in Egyptian Art and made it more naturalistic by the curves in his body and deformations. Weak eye sight and sensitivity to cold, common among Marfan’s suffers, might explain Akhenaton’s attraction to the sun as god Aten. If this is true then it could be the reason for the change from polytheism to monotheism and the influence of art in the Armana age.

After Akhenaton’s death, future pharaohs converted back to polytheism for they thought monotheism was too radical. The art of Akhenaton’s time ceased to influence any longer in Egyptian art with the exception of Tutankhamen for twenty years.

A thousand years later Constantine influenced the world of art and religion. The emperor Constantine established Christianity as the state religion of Roman Empire. Until that time, the Christian congregation had been unable to meet for worship in public; services were held inconspicuously in the houses of wealthier members. Constantine spurred frenzy in the Roman Empire with Christianity. The incorporation of art and architecture is nothing new, but Constantine constructed buildings for the sake of spreading Christianity as portrayed in the Arc of Constantine. When Constantine made Christianity the state religion, he also constructed churches that were utilitarian.

Places of worship were erected with great indoor space for the masses of worshipers around the empire. The architecture of the cathedrals was commissioned to have elaborate renderings of Christianity. Constantine realized the unifying strength that the newly recognized religion could bring to his reign. Constantine devoted his time to erecting cathedrals and the spreading of Christianity. The Old St. Peters Basilica in Rome (See figure three) is composed of brick on the outside, but lavish marble in the bowels of the church, along with other sumptuous materials. The influence of St. Peters was to be perpetuated because of the fame of the sanctuaries and artistic prestige of the architectural solutions.

Through out history, the cathedrals have served as models and buildings continue to be traced back to the era of Constantine. Constantine himself may have not played much part in their choice, but it was he who initiated the commissions and set the artists to work. Constantine set the standard for generationsto come.

Both Constantine and Akhenaton had tremendous influence on the depiction of art in their empires by means of religion. Their radical changes in style make them both great entrepreneurs. Through making Christianity the state religion, Constantine’s influence was spread in his architecture depicting Christianity. His revolution is still felt in the creation of buildings today.

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The Changes in the Styles of Art by Great Emperors Throughout the History. (2023, Mar 15). Retrieved from

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