Byzantine (Constantinople?), early thirteenth century

The British Library, London, Additional Ms. 5112, fol. 134

The present miniature of St John is a highly accomplished work, amongst the finest products of Byzantine painting. It shows a treatment of form which was to be standard until long after 1453 and which results from a tempering by Classicism, in the early thirteenth century, of the extremely mannerist style of late twelfth century Byzantine painting. Not that this leads to naturalism. Rather, there is a play of colour which heralds the daring fantasias of Byzantine artists of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The design of the St John obviously goes back to the best classical models, but the architecture, the furnishings, and the outlines of the evangelist himself are conceived as contrasting and balancing areas of lights, against a background of light at its most transcendental: gold, which is the colour of the sun and enlightenment.