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The paintings in this sixteenth-century Armenian Gospel book interweave figures, fabrics, and settings into a rhythmic patterning that spreads energetically across the pages. In the manuscript’s many full-page images, the artist, named Ghoukas, employed a system of visual symbolism in which perspective and proportion are swept away. Characters gesture expressively at one another, their interactions cutting clearly through the images’ inventive mix of proportions and perspectives. The figures appear at once fragmented and eternal, subsumed by the fluid modeling of their pink, yellow, and green draperies.
The manuscript is richly illustrated. It begins with twenty full-page scenes from the life of Christ and the Old Testament, and also includes author portraits of the four evangelist portraits, one at the beginning of each Gospel. In style and content, the Gospel’s pictures evoke those produced in the Lake Van region of historic Armenia (now modern Turkey) and mostly adhere to the standard scenes and narratives found in other Armenian Gospel Books. However, the manuscript includes several uncommon images. One illustration, which depicts souls ascending to heaven and condemned in hell, is especially rare in the published record.
An inscription (called a colophon) provides the manuscript’s date, names its scribes (Mik’ayel and Ohannes), artist (Ghoukas), and patron (Mirza Djan).The inscription explains further that the book was made for the monastery of the Holy Theotokos in the borough of Karbi, which is near the plains of Mount Ararat in modern Armenia. The manuscript also contains memorials from later owners and a further colophon which provides an eyewitness record of the forced migration of Armenians to Isfahan at the beginning of the seventeenth century under the Persian Shah Abbas.
Commissioned for the Church of the Holy Theotokos
early 17th century
Private Collection (New Julfa, Isfahan, Iran)
Probably Michel de Bry, French, 1890 - 1970, sold to the Archbishop Ajamian, 1967.
1967 - 1980
Archbishop Shahe Ajemian, Armenian, 1926 - 2005, gifted to Fayez Barakat, 1980.
1980 - 1983
Fayez Barakat, Palestinian, born 1949 (Jerusalem, Israel), placed into the newly opened Barakat Gallery, Los Angeles, 1983.
1983 - 2019
Barakat Gallery, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2019.
Tsʿutsʿak hayeren dzeṙagratsʿ masnavor andzantsʿ" («Ցուցակ հայերեն ձեռագրաց մասնավոր անձանց» / Catalog of Armenian Manuscripts Belonging to Private Individuals). Banber Matenadarani [Bulletin of the Matenadaran] vol. 13 (1980), pp. 297-333.
Nersessian, V. (2020). An Armenian Gospel Copied in 1583 in the Scriptorium of Yovhannavank. BULLETIN OF MATENADARAN, 30, pp. 433-454. fig. 1.5b, 2.6b, 3.10a.