The vast Roman Empire was divided for administrative purposes in the third century. Although it declined in the west, eventually falling to nomadic peoples from Europe, the empire survived in the east and became known as the Byzantine Empire.

The late antique and Byzantine eras were marked by periodic revivals of the classical aesthetic of ancient Greece. However, these impulses were combined with a tendency for stylization and a love of ornament that was less focused on naturalism.

The development of this new approach is captured by objects at the museum, including textiles, jewelry, and paintings.