Version intégrale sur la BVMM (IRHT-CNRS)
H 220 mm / W 180 mm (Ms.055)

Bolorgir letter on two columns of 22 lines each
Copywriter: Nerses

Tables of concordances between the Gospels Matthew-Luke, Matthew-Mark for the first page, Matthew-John, Luke-Mark for the second page. The tables are richly illustrated, with a floral entablature on a blue background, above which rises a cross surrounded by symbolic animals, a rooster and a swan. Three slender columns support the architectural framework; to the left and right outside the framework is a stylized motif of a tree topped by two birds holding in their beaks the tail of a mythological animal. At their feet, a torch closes the chain of a cannon table.

Bright colors were used again in 17th century Armenian miniatures. This small manuscript of the Gospels opens with a letter from Eusebius to Carpianus and tables of canons. It includes the portraits of the Evangelists placed on the first page of their book, as well as some marginal decorations. The first three evangelists are depicted sitting and writing, while John stands and dictates his story to his disciple Prochorus. The eagle, the symbol of John, forms the inscription on the opposite page, below the rectangle decorated with volutes. The artist offers a simplified version of the common iconography of John and Prochorus in Armenian manuscripts: the heavy and static figure of the evangelist is included in the composition, but, nevertheless, he does not turn towards the divine hand which appears above him. Moreover, the backgrounds here are very different from those more familiar, evoking the Cave of the Apocalypse on the island of Patmos: the rocky scree is reduced to simple flat areas with jagged outlines, and the architectural elements are reduced to a few laconic forms.

The artist, probably a copyist, takes the graphic and schematic style of his predecessors to extremes, as seen in a gospel manuscript transcribed at Yerznka, in the same region, nearly a century earlier, in 1488. The Paris manuscript, for its part, acknowledges the oriental taste in the choice of colors, which resembles the modern Ottoman palette and the Armenian pottery produced since the early 17th century in Kutahya.The artist combines a strong and firm line with vivid colours, not without a certain skill, despite the simplicity of the forms, the apparent naivety of the composition and the relatively crude appearance of the book as a whole. The portraits of the Evangelists also bear an unmistakable resemblance to those of the Matenadaran Gospel, also copied in the Karin (Erzurum) region in 1587. Both manuscripts were made in humble villages. The copyist of the 1584 manuscript clearly indicates in the colophon that he did his work in the “village” of Devik, and the same term refers to the village of Salajor in the 1587 colophon. These two gospels testify to a real rural dynamism in Anatolia and, in their own way, foreshadow a revival in the production of painted manuscripts in the seventeenth century.

Origin: Unknown. Former collection of Nurhan Fringian.
Bibliography: Catalogue of the Musée d’Armes de France, 1989.
Paris, Musée Armée de France, Nourhan Fringian Foundation.

Ioanna Rapti
cf. Armenia Sacra, p. 389. Editions Somogy/Musée du Louvre 2007.