476 A.D. - 1453 A.D.
The medieval period, often called the Middle Ages, spans approximately one thousand years, from the fifth to the fifteenth century AD. The fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD marks its inception, while the fall of Constantinople (and the Byzantine Empire) to the Ottomans in 1453 AD marks its end. The cultures of Western Europe during this period were feudal--that is, strictly hierarchal--in nature. Each region was ruled by a monarch and, over the course of the centuries, grew more distinct from its neighbors, eventually becoming a defined nation. The Western medieval world was one of shifting alliances and open hostilities, but it was nominally unified by (and, in theory, governed by) the Christian Church.
Medieval art, while drawing upon the Greco-Roman tradition, differed considerably. The varying styles of the cultures comprising medieval Western Europe are the results of the stylistic transition which occurred in the Late Antique period. Medieval art also took certain distinctive traits from the local culture--be it English, French, Italian, etc.--most of which had Germanic origins or connections. However, the common thread of all Western medieval art was religious faith. Medieval art focused upon internal and spiritual, rather than external or physical, perfection. Artists used the visual medium as a means of religious guidance and a product of devotion. They portrayed their subjects symbolically rather than realistically, forgoing the naturalistic idealism of the Greeks for spiritualistic idealism.
330 A.D. - 1453 A.D.
The Byzantine Empire, also called the Eastern Empire, was the perpetuation of the Roman Empire into the Middle Ages; it lasted from the fourth to the fifteenth century AD. It grew, over the course of centuries, into its own entity after Diocletian’s division of the Roman Empire, Constantine’s establishment of Constantinople as the capital, and the fall of the western half of the empire in the late fifth century AD.
Like the “barbarian” Late Antique and early Medieval cultures of the west, the Byzantine Empire retained many of Imperial Rome’s traditions, but lacked the west’s Germanic influences. It soon developed its own particular synthesis of politics, religion, and society. Its artistic sensibilities were, like those of Late Antiquity, informed by the Classical and Hellenistic traditions, but also by Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Byzantine art shares much with Late Antique art, including the trend toward the spiritual and symbolic. Its hallmark is also a lack of naturalism, replaced by stylized representations which purposefully ignore scale and perspective. However, the art of the Eastern Roman Empire was often quite distinct from that of the medieval west, especially as the civilizations continued to diverge. One significant type of Byzantine art is the religious icon--a venerated painting of Christ, Mary, or a saint--an artistic tradition which continues to this day.
Byzantine is also a name sometimes given to the art of the Empire’s neighboring cultures, such as medieval Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia.