ETHIOPIC -- A COLLECTION OF ETHIOPIC RELIGIOUS TEXTS, in Ge’ez, illuminated manuscripts on vellum [Ethiopia, c.1700 – 20th century].
RELIGIOUS TEXTS [Ethiopia, c.1700]. 280 x 225mm. 161 leaves. 19-21 lines of text in two columns, rubrics in red, FORTY-SEVEN FULL-PAGE MINIATURES (prefatory cycle of illumination worn, rubbed and cockled, some dampstaining and marginal staining throughout). Contemporary paneled red leather stamped in blind (restored).
The manuscript features an image of St Abba Gabra Manfas Queddus, who died around 1433. He was an Ethiopian hermit monk who lived in the desert among sixty lions and sixty leopards, traditionally – as here – represented by two of each beast. The iconography in this form only became developed in the later 16th century. The painter’s use of color is characteristic of early Gondarine painting, appearing in both icons and works on parchment, and would suggest a late 17th-early 18th-century date.
[With:] Four other Ethiopic manuscripts of varying dates, with later added illumination.
- PSALTER [Ethiopia, 17th century]. 150 x 140mm. 91 leaves. 19 lines of text, TEN MINIATURES (marginal staining). Modern full red morocco. Red morocco folding box.
- GOSPEL OF JOHN [Ethiopia, 19th century]. 150 x 95mm. 100 leaves. 16 lines of text in two columns, thread book markers sewn in upper outer margins, FOUR MINIATURES (marginal staining). Contemporary paneled calf stamped in blind with contemporary leather case and strap.
- MARIAN PRAYERS AND INVOCATIONS [Ethiopia, c.1900]. 180 x 115mm. 160 leaves. 25 lines of text, SIX MINIATURES (marginal staining and smudging, marginal scribbles in early folios). Contemporary wooden boards and tan leather case with strap (rubbed and soiled).
- MARIAN PRAYERS AND INVOCATIONS [Ethiopia, c.1900]. 160 x 105mm. 224 leaves. 17 lines of text in two columns. SEVEN MINIATURES and two hand-drawn decorative headpieces (marginal staining and occasional cockling). Contemporary wooden boards and brown leather case with strap (scuffed and soiled).
The illumination of these four manuscripts was likely added in the 20th century, with the original text scrubbed out. The Marian imagery with the Virgin holding a handkerchief is based on the Santa Maria Maggiore icon that the Jesuits introduced into Ethiopia in around 1600. Mary is often paired with St George from the late 18th century onward, and this is also when the blended green-yellow-red backgrounds found here begin to appear.