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Canon Tables from the Zeyt'un Gospels
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T"oros Roslin
Armenian, Hromklay, 1256
Tempera colors, gold paint, and ink on parchment

MS. 59

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The Zeyt'un Gospels, made in the scriptorium at Hromklay for Katholikos Constantine I in 1256, are the earliest signed work of T'oros Roslin, the most accomplished illuminator and scribe in Armenia in the 1200s. These canon tables were separated from the manuscript at some point in the past and eventually acquired by the Getty Museum, while the rest of the manuscript is in a public collection in Armenia.

Originally designed by Eusebius of Caesarea in the 300s, canon tables provide a concordance of related passages that describe the same events in more than one of the four Gospels. By the early Middle Ages, the columns of numbers were usually assembled within painted architectural structures. Though Roslin used this traditional format in all of his pages, he endlessly varied the ornamental designs and naturalistic elements, imbuing each page with individuality and vitality.

Armenia established its own independent church in the 300s, distinct from both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions. In medieval Armenia, religious books such as this one were believed to serve as heavenly intercessors for those involved with the books' creation, patronage, or restoration; Gospel books are among the most sumptuous of Armenian manuscripts.

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