Saturday, March 23, 2013

Gospel Book, Harrowing of Hell, Walters Manuscript W.540, fol. 12r

This manuscript was executed in 1475 by a scribe identified as Aristakes, for a priest named Hakob. It contains a series of 16 images on the life of Christ preceding the text of the gospels, as well as the traditional evangelist portraits, and there are marginal illustrations throughout. The style of the miniatures, which employ brilliant colors and emphasize decorative patterns, is characteristic of manuscript production in the region around Lake Van during the 15th century. The style of Lake Van has often been described in relation to schools of Islamic arts of the book. Numerous inscriptions (on fols. 258-60) spanning a few centuries attest to the manuscript's long history of use and revered preservation. The codex's later history included a re-binding with silver covers from Kayseri that date to approximately 1700. This jeweled and enameled silver binding bears a composition of the Adoration of the Magi on the front and the Ascension on the back.

Friday, March 8, 2013

T'oros Roslin Gospels, The feeding of the five thousand, Walters Manuscript W.539, fol. 67r

This manuscript was made in 1262 by T’oros Roslin, an extremely prominent illuminator, who extended the range of manuscript illuminations by introducing a whole cycle of images into the gospels rather than, as was traditional, only including the portraits of the evangelists. This particular manuscript was created at the scriptorium of Hromkla, which became the leading artistic center of Armenian Cilicia under the rule of catholicos Constantine I (1221-1267). As an extensive colophon starting on fol. 406v explains, T’oros created this manuscript under commission from the nephew of Constantine, a priest also named T’oros. It is one of seven known manuscripts bearing T’oros Roslin’s signature, and it is the most sumptuous of them all, with 15 miniatures and 67 smaller illustrations. The style of the images suggests that T’oros had several assistants helping with the illustrations, though the overall quality remains extremely high. The manuscript was long cherished within the Armenian church. Even in the seventeenth century, its illumination served as a model for Armenian scribes, particularly Bargham and his son Mik’ayel; see Jersualem, Armenian Patriarchate, no. 3438 and Washington DC, Freer Gallery, ms. 36.15; in the latter manuscript, Mik’ayel explicitly refers to “the excellent scribe T’oros, surnamed Roslin.”