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Single Leaf from a Gospel Book with a Portrait of St. Luke

Single Leaf from a Gospel Book with a Portrait of St. Luke

c. 1440-1480

Ink and tempera on vellum

Sheet: 37 x 25 cm (14 9/16 x 9 13/16 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1999.212

Fun Fact

The majority of Ethiopian manuscripts are written in Ge’ez, the ancient liturgical language of Ethiopia.

Description

Christianity arrived in Ethiopia during the 4th century, well before reaching northern Europe. Typical of icon and manuscript painting in Ethiopia, this leaf is decorated with bright colors and a joyous interplay of geometric pattern. The full-page miniature depicts the evangelist Luke, with his symbol, the Ox, within the arch above. The short text is in geez (the ancient Ethiopic language), and consists of the opening lines of the gospel of Luke. All manuscript and icon painting in Ethiopia was confined to monasteries; the painting style of this leaf relates it to the Ewostathian monastic community of Central Ethiopia. The artists of this community rose to prominence under the scholar-emperor Zara Yaeqob (1434–1468), who commissioned many of them to produce books and icons for the court. This leaf draws its inspiration from the most important monastic painter, Fre Seyon, who was enormously influential between about 1450 and 1500.

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