Images of the Gospels, As Seen Through Ethiopian and European Eyes

13 May Images of the Gospels

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An Ethiopian tetraevangelium – An example of the new Gondarine style of painting in Ethiopia in the 17th and 18th centuries

The large deluxe illuminated manuscript book Or 510, with the text of the four gospels and 153 colour images, is a precious item in the collection of Ethiopian sacred books in The British Library. The lecture will discuss and show selected paintings, presenting Dr. McEwan’s research into the origins and sources of the images.

Dorothea McEwan studied History at the University of Vienna where she was awarded her PhD. After moving to London she worked in the British Library cataloguing the John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough papers. She was the Archivist in The Warburg Institute, University of London, until her retirement and has devoted her time since to researching illuminated Ethiopian manuscripts. She has published widely on historical and theological topics. She was awarded the Cross of Honour in Art and Sciences from the President of the Republic of Austria and was elected Associate Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences.

The Ethiopian Orthodox monastery of Märtula Maryam, also called Ǝnnäbǝse, in Gojjam, Central Ethiopia, houses a precious gospel book of c. 1650, in which all four gospels are richly illuminated. The paintings are skilfully executed by more than one painter, the colours still vivid and well-preserved. What makes the illuminations in this gospel book so extraordinarily important is the adoption of painting methods such as the nascent use of perspective and the borrowing of visual props from its European source, the so-called Evangelium arabicum.

The article will show pictures selected from the gospel according to Luke in both the European source and the Ethiopian manuscript book and discuss the idiosyncrasies in the Ethiopian illuminations, to show how difficult it was to transpose foreign images into the Ethiopian milieu.


Name: Images of the Gospels, As Seen Through Ethiopian and European Eyes
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546