In the last decade or so, however, scholars have generally recognized a more cohesive Mediterranean world and a more fluid transition from Late Antiquity to medieval art and culture.Questions of continuity between these periods have ultimately made dating the end of “Early Christian” or “Late Antique” difficult, if not impossible.Most scholars see the end of Late Antiquity as coinciding with the death of Justinian I or, for the convenience of a rounded date, the year 600.
Byzantinists sometimes recognize the beginning of the iconoclastic controversy in 730 as the end of Late Antiquity.Accordingly, “true” Byzantine-era art begins after iconoclasm in the 9th century, what some refer to as the Middle Byzantine period, which marks the beginning of a distinguishable Byzantine state and extends until the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204, then followed by the Late Byzantine period (until 1453).Those who assert the continuity of Late Antique traditions in early Islamic art have recently broached the year 800 as the cut-off point.The study of Early Christian art—beyond the earliest surveys of Christian monuments of Rome in the 17th century and the antiquarianism characteristic of the 18th century (with perhaps the exception of Johann Winckelmann, who published his Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums in 1764)—began in earnest in the 19th century.Early Christian art history encompasses a range of material loosely dated from the first known appearances of Christian art in the late 2nd or early 3rd century and continuing through the 6th, 7th, and sometimes even into the early 8th centuries.
Early Christian art history, however, has proven to be an inchoate term, often overlapping with, or including, Early Byzantine art history.
In previous divisions of the field, Early Byzantine art tended to be too politically confining when one considers cities such as Ravenna before and after its inclusion in the Eastern Byzantine Empire.
On the other hand, Early Christian art implied only the earliest centuries, usually through the 4th or mid-5th centuries, and usually centered on Roman art.
Thus, many scholars today favor the term Late Antique in order to integrate the study of art and architecture of the Eastern Roman Empire and Western Roman Empire as well as to understand Christian art in dialogue with Jewish and pagan art.
In terms of dating, scholars generally acknowledge the genesis of Christian art and architecture around 200 CE, although some pursue theories that Christians participated in visual culture in the early 2nd century, if they had not yet developed a distinctly Christian visual language.
In terms of geography, the eastern and western Mediterranean, Palestine and the Near East, and sometimes even northern Europe and Britain are all included.