The artworks prevalent during the early Middle Ages in many ways stand between these two extremes. The art of this period was one that was both religiously inclined but also celebrated the human form and human nature that was to become so prominent in the Renaissance. In many ways much of early Medieval art was similar to the abstract and decorative art that we find in Islamic examples. An example that has been chosen to represent this early period of European art is the Gerona Bible Master from Bologna, Italy,
This decorative example displays intricate artwork that emphasizes and enhances the Biblical context. The text or lyrics on the page refers to hymnal and religious phrases of praise, such as "Let us rejoice" (Art: Middle Ages). Note the way that the decorative images add depth to the aesthetics of the script and the manuscript as a whole.
Another good example from this period is the Lindisfarne Gospels.
The Lindisfarne Gospels is described as "…one of Britain's greatest art treasures, and was probably made on Holy Island in Northumbria (North-East England), in the late seventh or early eighth century" ( The Lindisfarne Gospels Tour). This exquisitely designed and painted manuscript "…contains the oldest surviving translation of the Gospels into English" ( The Lindisfarne Gospels Tour).
The resemblance between this work and the style of many Islamic artworks is obvious from the above discussion. Both show the same decorative embellishments of the religious text that acts as a support for the religious or spiritual message.
However it is also true that one cannot make overarching and definitive generalizations about a period of art. For example, we often find figurative elements in both Islamic and Medieval artworks. An example would be The Battle of Kay Khusraw and Afrasiyab, by Persian artist Salik ibn Sa'id ( 1493-1494 AD).
In general, while Islamic art is characterized by a representation, Roman and to a lesser extent medieval art was concerned with representing and often extolling the virtues of the human figure and the human enterprise in art. In this sense many critics comment that the Roman art was more secular in nature in than the religious art of Islam and the early middle ages.
In this discussion on these different periods and cultures it becomes clear that one shouldn't make the mistake of assuming that a period of art is homogenous. In other words, there are many differences and variations in a single culture or time period; for example Islamic art is extremely varied and is influenced by a number of different sources.
The above brief analysis and comparison is intended as a discursive overview of the different periods and cultures. As noted this overview is not exhaustive by any means. What is however clear from the above is that there are some cardinal differences between Islamic art and both Roman and medieval art. The most striking difference is the greater emphasis of decorative elements that is religiously inspired, compared to the more secular Roman art. This can be seen in the emphasis on the human figure, power and fame, which is markedly absent from early Islamic.
Art and architecture of the Early Middle Ages. Retrieved from http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Middle_Ages
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Middle Ages. Retrieved from http://www.answers.com/topic/middle-ages
Roman art. Retrieved from http://www.artchive.com/artchive/R/roman.html Siddiqui E.
Islamic Art. Retrieved from http://www.colostate.edu/orgs/MSA/find_more/islart.html
ISLAMIC ART AND ARCHITECTURE. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/encyclopedia.do?vendorId=FWNE.fw..is045900.a
The Lindisfarne Gospels Tour. Retrieved from http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/hightours/lindgosp/large17328.html
The Nature of Islamic Art. Retrieved from http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/orna/hd_orna.htm