Russian art is unique in its grandeur and décor. In fact, Russian art derives its sense of artistry from Byzantium art and architecture with its focus on icons, gold inlays, mosaics and frescoes. Russian art is different than Western European Art because of its hyper focus on icons; something the Russian Orthodox Church decided was legitimate only because of the icons use for biblical story telling. Western European art, however, did not focus solely on religious icons (although quite a lot of them exist) but rather on patrons of the art who were able to afford to have their portrait painted, or their inclusion in stained glass (Geographia, 2005, para. 1-2).
Due to the Church’s involvement in Russian art, a specific canon was established, and once established it was unalterable for centuries (Geographia, 2005, para. 2). This further made artists hone their iconographic style through subtle changes in form. This changed in the 14th century in Russia because of the shift in focus to personal expression. In this shift, there was more a correlation between Russian icons and Western European portraiture (this correlation may best be witnessed by comparing Andrey Rublyov and Jean de Beaumetz). Differences still abounded, however, in that Russians depicted less special designs and appearance but rather offered the viewer a sense of contemplation or meditation (Janson, 1991, p. 593-595).
Thus Russian art was more linked to prayer (meditation) than Western European Art that was linked to patronage and depicted life as it was being lived during that time period. This is also true of Russian architecture that was also derived from Byzantium design and closely related to the Russian Orthodox Church. This held true until the mid 14th century when Russians were allowed to be influenced by foreign architecture (mainly Italian).