FOUR GOSPELS, in Ge'ez, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Ethiopia, mid-17th century]
315 x 260mm. iii + 207 leaves, including one blank: 1-28, 35(of 6, v excised), 4-268, 272(of 6, i-iii, v excised), prickings visible in outer margins, two columns of twenty lines written in black ink in a neat, large traditional hand between four verticals and 20 horizontals ruled in blind, justification: 197 x 196mm, rubrics in red, including 15 pages of canon tables with borders ruled in red, FOUR FULL-PAGE MINIATURES, painted in orange-red, blue, green and yellow, the final leaf with an added sketch of St John (some slight surface soiling and abrasion to edges of miniatures, occasional tiny losses of pigment). Original leather over wooden boards, the covers elaborately panelled with blind-tooled borders enclosing central cross (some wear to corners and foot of spine).
The manuscript was made for a male owner, identified as Zärfä Yohannes. The style of the script suggests that it was written in the mid-17th century.
This large-scale, handsome manuscript contains four monumental paintings of the Evangelists - the work of two artists. The style adopted in the depiction of Saints Matthew and Mark, is that of an artist influenced by a 'European' style, characteristic of Ethiopic manuscripts which were decorated in the early 16th century. The paintings of Saints Luke and John, are the work of a highly skilled artist, and are datable in style to the mid-17th century. All four images however share a bright palette of light oranges and yellows.
The subjects of the paintings are as follows:
f.21v St Matthew, seated on a throne, holding the gospel and dipping his pen into ink, with a pitcher in the margin to the left, his knife and writing implements below
f.71v St Mark, shown writing, with the lion to the left
f.104v St Luke, shown writing, in his study with the ox behind him
f.161v St John, shown writing, seated on an ebony and ivory throne, with the eagle to the right. St John's throne recalls those examples which were imported from Spain or Portugal in the 17th century and then decorated in Ethiopia.