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.”

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