Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Gospel with Silver Cover

Object Name:
Illustrated manuscript
13th and 17th century
Made in present-day Turkey, Kayseri
Ink and tempera on parchment
Cover: silver, gilt, jewels, enamel
Pages: H. 10 in. (25.4 cm)
W. 6 3/4 in. (17.1 cm)
Binding: H. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)
W. 7 3/8 in. (18.7 cm)
Approx. opening with cradle: H. 10 1/4 in. (26 cm)
W. 13 3/4 in. (34.9 cm)
D. 8 in. (20.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, 1916
Accession Number:
Not on view
These jeweled, enameled, and gilt-silver repoussé covers for a gospel are examples of the work produced in the late seventeenth-century silversmith workshop of Kayseri. Both front and back cover are signed, informing us that they were made in Kayseri in 1691 by Astuatsatur Shahamir. The central image on the front cover depicts the Adoration of the Shepherds, and above, the magi following the star. Amid angels, the banner in the sky proclaims, "Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace." The same composition of shepherds appears on two sets of gospel covers made in Kayseri by M. Karapet Malkhas, one dated 1671 (Mekhitarist Library, Vienna, MS 416) and the other dated 1691 (present location unknown). On the back is the Resurrection, showing Christ in a mandorla holding a bannered cross, surrounded by baroque cherubs and clouds. The green velvet spine is decorated with six garnets and numerous glass or crystal gems arranged in a diamond pattern. These covers were attached to a gospel copied and illuminated by a thirteenth-century scribe named Grigor, possibly from Cilicia.
Inscription: Inscribed (MSS, 7v) dedicated by the scribe, Grigor; (95r, 114r) colophons of the scribe Grigor; (301r) colophon by the owner, Baron Paron; (Front cover) Armenian (trans.: I bought this Gospel with my personal earnings to pray and thank Our Savior Jesus Christ, by Father Mesrob Ashjian, Armenian Catholicosate, Antilias, Lebanon, ca. 1967); (Back cover); continuation of front cover inscription) Armenian (trans. ornamented with silver in the year 1140 (Armenian calender: 1140 plus 551 gives date of 1691), unworthy Asdvadzadour Shahamir in the city of Cesarea (now Kayserii, Anatolia) with the help of God, by Father Mesrob Ashjian)
M. C. D. Borden, New York (until 1913; his sale, American Art Galleries,New York, February 17–19, 1913, lot 497, to Harkness); Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, New York (1913–16; gifted to MMA)
New York. Morgan Library & Museum. "Treasures in Heaven, Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts," May 4, 1994–August 7, 1994, no. 50.

Baltimore. Walters Art Museum. "Treasures in Heaven, Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts," August 28, 1994–October 23, 1994, no. 50.

Mathews, Thomas F., and Roger Wieck. "Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts." In Treasures in Heaven. Princeton, NJ: Morgan Library & Museum, 1994. no. 50, p. 183, ill. figs. 79, 133.

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