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Double-Sided Gospel Leaf

Date:
first half 14th century
Geography:
Made in Tigray, Ethiopia
Culture:
Ethiopian
Medium:
Tempera on parchment
Dimensions:
Overall: 10 15/16 x 7 1/2 in. (27.8 x 19 cm) Overall (Framed): 18 1/8 x 14 3/8 x 3/4 in. (46 x 36.5 x 1.9 cm)
Classification:
Manuscripts and Illuminations
Credit Line:
Purchase, Oscar de la Renta Ltd. Gift, 2006
Accession Number:
2006.100
  • Description

    The Tigray region of Ethiopia converted to Christianity in the fourth century and became a very important ally of the Byzantine Empire ruled from Constantinople (Istanbul) in controlling the trade routes to India. Tigray also maintained contacts with other Christian communities of the eastern Mediterranean, including those in Syria and Egypt. The compelling images on this double- sided leaf are from a group of early- fourteenth century Gospels that feature a revival of motifs that reached Ethiopia from the eastern Mediterranean, probably in the seventh century.

    Both sides of the leaf are inscribed in Ge'ez, the ancient language of Ethiopia. On the front is a dramatic octagonal Fountain of Life flanked by peacocks, which are indentified in the inscriptions as "ostriches" (royal birds in Ethiopia), and gazelle like "babula." The text within the domed space refers to the arrangement of the Eusebian Canon Tables, or index to the Gospels, which preceded the image in the original manuscript. On the reverse, the Crucifixion is represented by a monumental jeweled cross topped by a Lamb of God, symbol of Christ's sacrifice. At the sides are the two thieves bound to their crosses. Other leaves from this Gospel are in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.

  • Provenance

    Roger Wolcott-Behnke, England (1956?-1994); Sotheby's, London(sold December 5, 1994); [ Sam Fogg Ltd., London (sold 2005)]

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
477148

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