It can be assumed that the same sort of difference in definition might be discovered when one begins considering art produced in recent years. Examining the differences between the art produced in the Middle Ages and that produced in the Modern period, it cannot be denied that the definition of ‘art’ has shifted and changed over time and across cultures, but that remnants of earlier periods can and do become incorporated into the new theories.
Art in the Middle Ages can be seen to be dominated by themes of Christianity as the Paganism of the shattered Roman Empire gave way to the Christian belief structures of the new emperors and rulers. From roughly the 500s to the 1500s, art was dominated by a rigid interpretation offered by religious leaders rather than through any of the science or knowledge that had been gained in earlier centuries. Like the Modern period, the Middle Ages can often be broken down into several distinct periods: the early middle ages, the central middle ages and the late middle ages. “During the early Middle Ages, most paintings were found in the form of illustrated manuscripts. This remained the chief form of painting for years” (Rymer, 2004). A chief reason for this was due to the fact that much of the art produced during this period was produced in the only place where individuals had the leisure and materials with which to produce it and where the wealth consented to support it. Manuscripts were important in preserving the knowledge of the church before the printing press was invented and the illustration of these manuscripts was encouraged by those individuals with the power and strength to encourage it but without the knowledge to read it. “During the time of Charlemagne, a large emphasis was placed on learning. Though Charlemagne could not read, he supported the development of illustrated texts” (Rymer, 2004). Color usage was relatively muted in the earliest examples of illustrated manuscripts;