Today we would like to present something a bit unexpected. This illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels was created at a monastic center in northern Ethiopia. Twenty full-page paintings depict scenes from the life of Christ and four portraits of the evangelists introduce the respective Gospel texts.
The New Testament was translated from Greek into Geʽez, the classical language of Ethiopia, in the 6th century. Both this text and its pictorial format draw upon Byzantine prototypes, which were transformed into a local idiom of expression. Stylistically consistent, the paintings reflect the hands of two distinct artists. A stylized uniformity is reflected in the abbreviated definition of facial features and the bold linear articulation of the human form in black and red. Figures' heads are depicted frontally, their bodies often in profile. Bodies are treated as columnar masses encased in textiles composed of striated fields juxtaposed against one another.