The Transfiguration
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Byzantine, Nicaea or Nicomedia, late 1200s
Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment
8 1/8 x 5 7/8 in.

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The full-page miniature of the Transfiguration is one of a series of illuminations representing events from Jesus' life in this Byzantine Gospel book. According to the evangelist Matthew, Jesus took the apostles Peter, James, and John to a mountain, where he was illuminated by a bright heavenly light. The Jewish patriarch Moses and the prophet Elijah then appeared and a voice from a cloud declared Jesus to be the son of God.

In the miniature, Jesus stands in a mandorla with the two Old Testament figures perched on mountain peaks on either side. The three apostles below react with dramatic expressions and gestures. The artist used vivid contrasting colors and careful modeling to give the figures a sense of three-dimensionality against the glowing gold background. The feast of the Transfiguration is one of the twelve major holidays of the Byzantine church, which explains why the subject received a lavish, full-page miniature in this book.