Archive for the ‘Manuscript decoration’ Category

Luke and John from CFMM 37   Leave a comment

Below is a well-preserved painting of Luke and John from Church of the Forty Martyrs, Mardin, 37. The previous folio has the other two evangelists, and there are still more paintings in the book. Jules Leroy describes them all exactly in his Manuscrits syriaques à peintures (Paris, 1964), p. 386 of the text, so I won’t repeat everything he has written, but I will highlight a few things in the picture. The evangelists’ names, with the respective epithets of “evangelist” and “apostle,” are written in Syriac, and then, in Greek, “Saint Luke” and “Saint John the theologian.” On the writing surface before each writer is the beginning of his own Gospel in Syriac, but while Luke’s (and also Matthew’s and Mark’s on the other page) is in black ink, John’s alone is in red. Luke is made to be younger than John, and as for their seats, they’re ornate and cushioned.

CFMM 37, f. 6r

This image’s color and texture make for a stunning example of what quality photography can do for looking at manuscripts. (I should point out, too, that the image here is not of the highest quality that we have of it.) By contrast, here’s the bitonal image from Leroy’s aforementioned book, p. 137 of the Album.

We might well assume that the production that went into Leroy’s Album was well nigh state-of-the-art, at least within the parameter of making the book mildly affordable, but in any case, it was over half a century ago. In fifty years (or less?), as hard as it is to imagine, we — or our successors, depending on how old we are now! — might look back on the technological means and method that went into making the color image above as quaint, old-fashioned, and very imperfect. Even so, we’re now in a place for the present, at least, to make a vast improvement on Leroy’s excellent assemblage of images from Syriac manuscripts, in terms not only of the potential quality of the visual outcomes, but also of the content of the image collection itself, this latter aspect naturally requiring the cooperation of the owning libraries. Any such revision and improvement of Leroy’s work would allow an ebb in the detail of commentary on each image: when Leroy described his images, he was careful to point out the colors involved, his readers hardly able to get that knowledge from the bitonal images in his Album, and that would no longer be the case with the rich, almost textured, images we can now have at our disposal.

A fine Arabic synaxarion   3 comments

CFMM 251 is a beautiful copy of a synaxarion (the catalog of saints according to the day they are celebrated in the church) in Arabic. It follows the Greek menologion (text in PG 117) closely (but not exactly) and is almost complete, with only a folio or two missing at the end. Since the end is lacking, there is also no colophon, nor is there any clear indication of date elsewhere in the manuscript. The images below are the first page of the book, which begins with the month of Aylūl (= September), and p. 13, for Sept. 10, on which these saints are named: the sisters Menodora, Metrodora, and Nymphodora; Baripsibba; and Pulcheria.

CFMM 251, p. 1

CFMM 251, p. 13

Nativity reading from a Mardin Gospel Lectionary   Leave a comment

Church of the Forty Martyrs ms. 41, p. 46

Below are the recto and verso of a folio (now pp. 31-32) from an undated (probably 13th century) Syriac Gospel Lectionary from the Church of the Forty Martyrs (formerly at Dayr Al-Zaˤfarān). The painting, one of twenty in this manuscript,[1] shows the birth of Jesus; it has has suffered somewhat in the middle of the page, and is thus not one of the better preserved, but is nevertheless fitting to current season of the church calendar. The Syriac text, from John 1,[2] is notable for the way in which it was written: outlined letters filled in with gold, and within a decorative border. A few other lections in the manuscript are also written this way, but the greater part is written in a fine, thick Esṭrangǝlā, an example of which I have also included.

Best wishes to all for year’s end and a new beginning!

[1] J. Leroy, Les manuscrits syriaques à peintures (Paris, 1964), vol. 1, pp. 371-383 (with some errors in reference to the manuscript’s pagination); vol. 2, pp. 127-136. I dare say these color images are rather more striking than the black and white reproductions in Leroy’s album. We can be thankful for the ease with which we can now reproduce such high-quality images.

[2] This reading, and most of the others, are of the Ḥarqlean version. Leroy says that the manuscript is Ḥarqlean, but there are in fact some lections from the Pǝšiṭtā, and they are so marked in the margins.

Church of the Forty Martyrs ms. 41, p. 31

Church of the Forty Martyrs, ms. 41, p. 32

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