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a method by which several successive stages of the same history are depicted together in a single painting.
Further, he contends that this Roman style was adopted by the first Christian artists and that, though obscured and weakened, it persuaded the Roman world and maintained its identity throughout the Middle Ages until eventually it quickened again into fuller life under the stimulus of the Renaissance.
In the most ancient examples of all the private chambers used for Christian interment in the first and second centuries, there is decoration indeed, but it is only in a negative sense that it can be called Christian art, for while the abundant frescoes seen in the cemetery of Domitilla and notably in the cubiculum of Ampliatus exclude such pagan elements as would be unseemly, the character of the painting is in every respect the counterpart of the ornamentation of the contemporary private houses buried at Pompeii. Perhaps the frequent recurrence of the vine as a principal element in the scheme of decoration may have been meant to suggest the thought of Christ, the true vine, but even this is doubtful.
Symbolism occurs early, but it can only be recognized with confidence in the more public cemeteries of the second century, e.g. Callistus; here, under the influence of the "Discipline of the Secret", it is hardly wrong to recognize the true beginnings of a distinctively Christian art.
There are also human figures and Biblical scenes, especially those connected with the liturgy for the departed for example the miraculous restorations of Jonah and Daniel and Lazarus and in one or two isolated instances we may perhaps recognize a presentment of the Madonna, but the reference is always cryptic and only interpretable by the initiated.
It was under these circumstances that the instinct of religious symbolism was developed when the art of the Church was yet in its infancy but the tradition thus created has never departed from true religious art throughout the ages. 313 to the end of the fifth century was a period of transformation and development in Christian art, and it may be conspicuously recognized upon the walls of the Roman catacombs.
The deeper mysteries of the Eucharist and of the other sacraments were still more artfully veiled in the frescoes of those early centuries.
Though Strzygowski may go too far when he claims that even the art of the Romanized provinces like Gaul came from the East direct and not through Rome, it seems highly probable that his contention is in substance accurate enough.