Saint Mark
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Byzantine, Constantinople, end of 1200s
Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold ink, and ink on parchment
8 1/4 x 5 7/8 in.
MS. 65, FOL. 103V

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Saint Mark pauses, quill in hand, as he writes his account of the life of Christ. This portrait of the saint as author introduces his Gospel in a Greek manuscript of the late 1200s. An inscription in red on the gold leaf background identifies the saint by name.

Through the careful modeling of both flesh and drapery, the anonymous illuminator achieved a strongly three-dimensional figure. Contrasting the heritage of classical antiquity seen in this naturalism, the solid gold background is a profoundly anti-naturalistic device. As weighty as the figure appears, he is not entirely of this world. The saint's isolation against the shimmering gold ground emphasizes his sanctity and the divine inspiration of his Gospel.