The earliest identifiably Christian art consists of a few 2nd-century wall and ceiling paintings in the Roman catacombs (underground burial chambers), which continued to be decorated in a sketchy style derived from Roman impressionism through the 4th century. They provide an important record of some aspects of the development of Christian subject matter. The earliest Christian iconography tended to be symbolic. A simple rendering of a fish was sufficient to allude to Christ. Bread and wine invoked the Eucharist. During the 3rd and 4th centuries, in the catacomb paintings and in other manifestations, Christians began to adapt familiar pagan prototypes to new meanings. The early figural representations of Christ, for instance, most often show him as the good shepherd by directly borrowing from a classical prototype. He was also sometimes depicted in the guise of familiar gods or heroes, such as Apollo or Orpheus. Only later, when the religion itself had achieved some measure of earthly power, did he take on more exalted attributes. Narratives tended at first to be typological, often suggesting parallels between the Old and New Testaments. The earliest scenes from the life of Christ to be depicted were the miracles. The Passion, particularly the Crucifixion itself, was generally avoided until the religion was well established. Christian Video Youtube
Early Christian art survives from dates near the origins of Christianity. The oldest Christian sculptures are from sarcophagi, dating to the beginning of the 2nd century. The largest groups of Early Christian paintings come from the tombs in the Catacombs of Rome, and show the evolution of the depiction of Jesus, a process not complete until the 6th century, since when the conventional appearance of Jesus in art has remained remarkably consistent.
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