Arts of Armenia-Miniatures

Introduction to Armenian Painting

If painting in its broadest meaning is the representation of an image on a flat surface -- on walls (fresco), on wood (icon), in manuscripts (miniature), on canvas (painting), on floors (mosaic) -- we know the history of Armenian painting almost exclusively from the study of the decoration of manuscripts. Monumental wall painting was practiced in Armenia, but was much less generalized than neighboring Byzantine or Coptic traditions and very little of what was produced has survived. The extent Armenian mosaics are strongly influenced by foreign traditions. Icon painting was never practiced in Armenia. Canvas painting is relatively plentiful, but dates for the most part to the eighteenth century and later. Thus, whereas the history of Byzantine painting in the Middle Ages is dependent as much (perhaps even more) on architectural decoration -- mosaics and frescoes -- and icons as on illuminations, the Armenian tradition is known almost exclusively from miniature paintings.


A. Iconography: The Composition of a Scene

An understanding of Armenian painting requires the explanation of two terms used universally in art history: "iconography" and "style." Iconography is the study ("graphy") of the "icon" (in Greek "image"); what we call an icon today was understood by the Greeks as a holy image usually painted on wood. Art historians use the term iconography to refer to the study of the formal composition of a picture and the elements of which it is made. Iconography also studies the changes and developments of compositional elements over time. For instance, in the study of the iconography of the Crucifixion [106, 149, 150, 169, 202, 208], specialists identify the elements of the representation: the presence or absence of the thieves or other witnesses, the clothing of the figures, the background devices, and so forth. These iconographic details help historians trace the influences of other artists and traditions on the painter. Armenians often innovated on accepted iconography of the earliest Christian centuries. T'oros Roslin [85, 86, 87, 89, 90] in the thirteenth century is among several important Armenian artists, some of them anonymous, who illustrated the standard cycle in totally new ways or who painted episodes rarely represented, thus breaking tradition with the earlier, generally conservative and standardized Christian iconography.

B. Style: The Artist's Expression

The compositional elements of a painting are, on the other hand, unimportant when discussing style. The artist's way of painting, his drawing, colors, shading, facial expressions, rendering of landscape, all of these and other painting techniques make up the style of a picture. "Impressionism," as an example, is a style that depends heavily on color, rather than outlining, to render shapes and volumes. The "classical" style refers to the manner developed by the Greeks and continued by the Romans of accurately portraying the human form on a flat surface. The Greeks were interested in showing the body in motion, in revealing the shape and bulk of the body under its clothing. They tried to paint or sculpt the face and body as idealistically or realistically as possible [184,185, 186, 187, 188, 216].

Classical artists developed rules of proportion and the best artists tried to follow them closely. In later periods a "classicizing" style was one that tried to imitate or at least pay attention to the tenets of classical art [89]. Armenians, because of their strong dependence on Byzantine Greek models, favored a classicizing style in the illumination of luxurious Gospels [61, 62, 63, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94].

Much of Armenian art, however, shows a style far removed from classical tendencies. Various ways have been used to describe such non-classical styles: naive, primitive, provincial, monastic, native [64,68, 70, 78, 79, 81, 101, 107, 112, 177, 220]. We find native or Armenian styles in the Vaspurakan school of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries [98, 101, 103, 107, 111, 112], or in such manuscripts as the Gospels of 966 [64] in the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, or the Gospels of Horomos of 1211 [79, 80] or of Khach'en/Arts'akh of 1224 [81] both now in the Matenadaran in Erevan. These works, and many others, though different from each, still share the common trait of ignoring the canons of classical representation. They display a greater interest in the expression of the figures, which are usually shown frontally; they often use color and design for purely decorative purposes [64, 68, 78], apparently indifferent to the criticism that their figures and their garments do not look as they are in real life. Often there is a naive quality in these miniatures, producing marvelous artistic effects [64, 70, 112]. At times, however, these illuminations are simply the work of untrained and unskilled monks assigned the task of illustrating manuscripts in a monastic scriptorium.

The eleventh century in Armenian painting is probably the moment when classical and non-classical styles are most clearly opposed. Manuscripts that were commission by the aristocracy are not only luxurious, but invariably demonstrate a classicizing style [67, 69, 72]. They are further characterized by superior parchment, goldleaf backgrounds [67] and expensive materials. In short, the royalty and higher clergy demanded works in the best tradition of the Byzantine imperial court. Manuscripts that originated in rural settings or monasteries used more modest materials, employing yellow paint for gold. Their style was non-classical, usually hieratic, and in this early period the figures were painted without background against the plain white parchments [64, 78, 98, 101, 103, 107, 111, 112]. These provincial manuscripts were almost without exception painted across the height of the page [68, 70], requiring the viewer to turn the manuscript around to see the scene in its normal position. Luxury manuscripts, however, have their miniatures in the normal upright position. This difference in orientation of the paintings between luxury and monastic manuscripts is virtually unknown in the centuries before and after the eleventh.

C. Illuminated Armenian Manuscripts

The dependence of the history of Armenian art on a single medium, manuscript painting, is not as serious a handicap as it may seem. Fortunately, a very large number of Armenian manuscripts are preserved, nearly 30,000, dating from the ninth to the nineteenth centuries, and produced in every region inhabited by Armenians. Most manuscripts are devoid of painting; however, at least 10,000 are illuminated or decorated in some way and of these some 5,000 to 7,000 contain one or more miniatures. The total number of individual works of art contained in Armenian manuscripts (excluding marginal decorations) in the tens of thousands.

The study of this vast quantity of art and, therefore, the history of Armenian painting, is still at its very beginning. The manuscripts and the works of art they contain are preserved in public museums and libraries, the most important of which are the Matenadaran in Erevan (11,000 whole manuscripts), the Library of the Mekhitarist Brotherhood at San Lazzaro, Venice (4,000), Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem (4,000), the Library of the Mekhitarist Brotherhood in Vienna (1,200), the Armenian Catholic Monastery of Bzummar in Lebanon (1,000), the Armenian Monastery at New Julfa, Isfahan (1,000) and important collections of fewer than 1,000 manuscripts are kept at the Catholicossate of Etchmiadzin, the Oriental Institute, Leningrad, the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, Bodleian Library, Oxford, the British Library, London, the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, the Catholicossate of Cilicia, Antelias, University of California, Los Angeles, and the Vatican Library. Hundreds of other libraries have small, but artistically very important, collections, for instance the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, the Pierpoint Morgan Museum in New York, the Walters Gallery in Baltimore, and the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

To date no detailed history of Armenian miniature painting has been published. However, the meticulous work of the late Sirarpie Der Nersessian, spanning six decades, has prepared the groundwork and provided a methodology for such a history. Her major study on the painting of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia serves as a model for a general history of all of Armenian art.

The most important problem in the study of Armenian painting is access to the works. Very few manuscripts have been adequately and individually published. Until recently, the major collections of manuscripts lacked published catalogues. This situation has been changed in the past four decades thanks to the publication of manuscript catalogues undertaken by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Though these catalogues usually list the miniature paintings in each manuscript, they are not designed to include illustrations. Furthermore, only volume one of a projected detailed catalogue of the Matenadaran collection has thus far appeared, describing just 300 of the 11,000 manuscripts in the collection; scholars must rely on the abridged two volume catalogue, which, unfortunately, fails to list illuminations. To a lesser degree the same can be said of the Venice Mekhitarist collection; the first three volumes of the detailed printed catalogue cover fewer than a quarter of the manuscripts. On the other hand, a large number of albums of the most important miniatures from various collections have been published. Yet, the history of Armenian painting cannot be limited to its masterpieces; it must be based on the works of all periods, regions, styles, and artists.

D. The Production of Manuscripts

The modern idea we have of artists as independent creators devoting their entire lives to the creation of works of art was inherited from the Renaissance. In the medieval Christian world of which Armenia was a part, artists as architects were usually anonymous and usually members of the clergy. Manuscript production was carried on exclusively by monks or priests employed in churches or monasteries. The performance of the church service was dependent on liturgical books, foremost of which was the Gospels, and, therefore, there was a constant need for them. Each monastery had its scriptorium where manuscripts were copied, illustrated and bound by a team. There was a division of labor and skills, though it was not uncommon for a scribe to illustrate and bind his own manuscript. Some Armenian kings also supported their own scriptoria, employing clergy trained in the various aspects of manuscript production.

The problems of attribution of Armenian painting, however, are much rarer than in Byzantine or medieval European art. Armenian scribes from the earliest times seldom failed to leave a precise memorial at the end of a manuscript after the copying was finished. In a sense a manuscript was considered incomplete without the personal colophon (in Armenian yishatakaran, literally memorandum or memorial from the verb yishel/hishel, to remember) of the scribe and at times the artist or binder, if they were different people. These concise notices of varying length usually mentioned the scribe's name as well as that of the artist, the date, the place of execution of the manuscript, the name of the patron, the names of the ruler and the reigning catholicos, and a variety of historical and miscellaneous information. Thanks to this information most Armenian miniatures are precisely dated and ascribed to an artist by name. It is only with manuscripts that have been worn by constant use that we are deprived of the exact date and place of production and the names of artist and scribe, because colophons, usually written on the last pages after the text, were lost or torn off during rebinding. In these cases, date, place and artist are determined by an analysis of the script and the style of the art.

E. The Contents of Armenian Miniature Painting

There is really only a single subject for Armenian miniature painting, at least until the late medieval period: The Life of Christ. The Four Gospels was the most illustrated Armenian text. With few exceptions, all surviving, illustrated Armenian manuscripts dated before 1300 are Gospels; the exceptions are a manuscript of the poems of Gregory of Narek dated 1173 with four portraits of Gregory [75], a series of Bibles [118 from the seventeenth century], the earliest from the thirteenth century, illustrated Psalters, among the oldest that of Leo III dated 1283, Lectionaries, among the oldest that of Het'um II of 1286 [91-92], as well as hymnals and ritual books, again mostly from the late thirteenth century. The earliest secular works to be illustrated also date from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but they are very rare, the most popular being the Alexander Romance and the Histories of Eghishé and Agat'angeghos [115].

F. Gospel Illustrations

The single work most reproduced in the Armenian manuscript tradition was the Four Gospels. Entire Bibles [118] containing the Old and New Testaments are rare and date from the thirteenth century on, complete New Testaments [97], that is the Gospels plus the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles, are even rarer. About twenty per cent of surviving Armenian manuscripts are Gospels or Bibles. Prior to the seventeenth century, before printed Bibles began to circulate, the percentage was even higher. Nearly all illuminated Armenian manuscripts up to the twelfth century are Gospels.

Since the Gospels were the most copied and illustrated work in ancient and medieval Armenia, and since the contents of the four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John -- are devoted to the life of Christ, the subject matter of Armenian painting is almost entirely composed of scenes from the important moments of His life. Beside the narrative scenes with their figures and landscapes, miniature painters had to be skilled in drawing animal and bird forms [65, 66, 94], geometric and floral decorations [71, 104] of great complexity, Evangelists' [67, 74, 77, 100, 117] and donor portraits [69, 75, 87], and very ornate letters used from the earliest times to illuminate and ornament canon tables [62, 65, 71, 79, 84, 90, 104], chapter headpieces and the opening lines of each Gospel.

G. The Conventions of Illuminating Armenian Gospels

The illustrating of a Gospel manuscript followed a fixed pattern. Some believe that a general system became traditional already in the fourth century after Christianity was accepted by the Roman Empire. Since the Empire controlled all of Europe, North Africa, and most of the Middle East, including Syria, Palestine, Egypt and most of Armenia, nearly all early Christians came under its jurisdiction. Immediately after the invention of the alphabet in the early fifth century, the work of translating the Bible into Armenian began. The translation was based mainly on Greek manuscripts. Though no illustrated Gospel in western languages from the fourth or fifth centuries survives, and the oldest complete Armenian Gospel is of the ninth century, scholars have concluded that Armenian Gospels, like those of neighboring countries, followed an arrangement established in this early paleo-Christian period.

Along with the texts of the four Evangelists, the complete Gospels had an elementary index arranged in a series of tabular columns called canons placed at the beginning of the book. These canons [62, 65, 71, 79, 84, 90, 104] were usually decorated and preceded by a text in the form of a letter explaining their use. It was also customary to include a portrait of each of the Evangelists [67, 74, 77, 100, 117]; these were in time individually placed on the left hand page facing the opening lines of each Gospel. These first pages of text in Armenian Gospels were also decorated quite lavishly. In the body of the text, which was usually written in two columns to a page [91, 99, 116], marginal decorations of various kinds -- birds [261, 262], fish, crosses, floral and geometric motifs, even small narrative scenes [99] -- were often introduced.

Finally, in the more important Gospel manuscripts there was a series of full page paintings usually placed together at the beginning of a manuscript, just after the Canon Tables. These can be divided into three types: symbolic representations (e.g., a cross) [66], portraits (e.g., the Virgin) [64,69], narrative scenes from the life of Christ (e.g., Baptism) [61, 63, 68, 70, 72, 73, 76, 80, 82, 85, 86, 89, 91, 93, 95, 97, 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114].

1. Canon Tables

The index to the four Gospels as represented by the canon tables was perfected by Eusebius, a fourth-century bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. His explanation of this system was formulated in a letter [94], always included in Gospel manuscripts just before the canons, addressed to his friend Bishop Carpianus. The letter was placed on two or in early manuscripts on three pages under decorated arches, followed by the columns of the canon tables also under decorated arches or arcades. Both the Mlk'é Gospels [62, 63] of 851-862, the oldest dated Armenian Gospel, and the Etchmiadzin Gospels [65, 66] of 989 have elaborate canon tables. As the Armenian tradition became conventionalized, the Letter of Eusebius was placed on two facing pages followed by the ten canon tables often in five pairs, each pair of similar decoration and on facing pages. In the lunettes of the arches of the Eusebian Letter, portraits of Eusebius [94] and Carpianus were executed. Above the columns of the canon tables a variety of birds, animal and human figures were painted sometimes of fabulous origin [71, 104]. Until the eleventh century, the canon arcades were free standing arches [62, 63, 64, 65], but in that century and later the arc of the arch was enclosed in a decorative rectangle [71, 79, 90, 104] supported by the columns of the arch itself. In some luxury Gospels of the Cilician period, a lavish twin page dedication highlighted in gold was also added and decorated like the canon arcades.

The source for the decorative program of the canon tables seems to go back to Eusebius, who produced fifty Gospel manuscripts with the canon index commanded by Emperor Constantine before his own death in 338. Though none of these have survived, we know they were recopied already in the same fourth century. Specialists regard certain Armenian canon tables of the ninth and tenth centuries [62, 65] as faithful models of the prototype of five centuries earlier. Medieval Armenian treatises on the decoration of canon tables, one of them by Nersés Shnorhali, have survived, but artists seemed not to follow them word for word. Nevertheless, such traditions as placing peacocks above the arch of the Eusebian Letter at the beginning of the series, have been consistently and universally maintained.

Artists from the very beginning, the Mlk'é Gospel is a good illustration, often used the canon tables for painting secular scenes [79, 263] from everyday life, at times even with fabulous creatures [104]. Within an artistic tradition whose task was primarily, at times exclusively, the decoration of the Holy Scriptures, painters simply had no outlet to render contemporary or imaginative scenes. Within the context of Gospel decoration, in which the figures and scenes of regular miniatures were proscribed by the Gospel narrative, the neutral support of the canon tables -- collectively nothing more than an index -- was apparently an acceptable medium for non-religious images [62, 71, 79, 263].

 As with every other facet of Gospel illumination, the canon tables were decorated in an ever evolving manner though the essential elements remained the same. The variety used by the best craftsmen not only demonstrated their personal skills but reflected the styles and tastes in various regions of Armenia in different epochs. The complexity of the patterned decoration of the canons of the eleventh-century Trebizond Gospel [67] or the elegance and beauty of those of Cilician Gospels of the thirteenth century [85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92 , 93, 94], demonstrate that the most commonplace motif can serve as an adequate support for brilliant and innovative art.

2. Portraits of the Evangelists

In the earliest Gospels, the Evangelists were often portrayed in pairs, either standing or seated. Such is the case of the oldest surviving Christian manuscript, the Rabbula Gospels, written in Syriac in 586. Gradually in the Byzantine tradition, to which Armenian artists owe so much, a preference developed for separate portraits of each of the Evangelists who were usually shown seated before a writing stand in the act of composing. The original model for this pose goes back to portraits of philosophers and physicians in pre-Christian classical manuscripts. The earliest Armenian Gospels display both traditions. The Mlk'é Gospels reserve a single full page portrait for each Evangelists, but two are shown seated and two standing. The Tarkmanch'ats' Gospels of 966 in the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, have pairs of evangelists painted at the end of the texts between Gospels. The Trebizond Gospels of the eleventh century had both individual portraits of the Evangelists seated [67] and a fifth folio page on which all four Evangelists are represented, though in separate squares.

In time, however, the portraits developed a standardized form, each separate, usually rendered in a seated position facing the first highly ornamented page of text [67, 75 (Narek), 77, 98, 100, 107].

The elaborate title pages, crowned by a decorated rectangular or trilobed headpiece, usually featured the symbol associated with each of the Evangelists in their decorative scheme. These were borrowed from those of Ezekiel's chariot in the Old Testament. Three were animal: the lion of St. Mark, the ox of St. Luke, and the eagle of St. John; St. Mathew was represented by an angel. By the twelfth century these figures were painted near the initial letter of the opening line of each Gospel. By the thirteenth century, especially in Cilician workshops, they were often fashion into the shape of the first letter of the respective texts.

Portraits in Gospels were not limited just to the Evangelists. From earliest times the Virgin [64], was portrayed either alone or with Jesus. Gospels also provided Armenian art with real life portraits of contemporaries [69, 87]. The donor who commissioned a manuscript often required that his own likeness be included. One of the most striking of early portraits is that of high Byzantine official Hovhannés the Protospathery in the Gospel made for him in 1007 in Adrianople now in the Venice Mekhitarist collection. It is from similar donor portraits of Armenian kings and queens [69, 87] of the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries that we have some idea of the likeness of medieval aristocracy.

3. Narrative Miniatures

The subjects of the major miniatures of an illuminated Gospels were taken from those events in Christ's life most celebrated by the church. Old Testament scenes, especially the Sacrifice of Abraham, are sometimes found in older Gospels as parallels to New Testament episodes, and naturally in illustrated Bibles [118] and Lectionaries [92, 265]. The oldest Armenian miniatures, dated by formal and stylistic considerations to the late sixth or early seventh century, are four paintings on two leaves of parchment [61] removed from their original manuscript, no doubt a Gospel book, and bound at the end of the famous Etchmiadzin Gospels of 989. These "Final Miniatures" of the Etchmiadzin Gospel, as they are called by art historians, represent two Annunciations (one to the High Priest Zechariah and the other to the Virgin), the Presentation of the Magi [61] (a representation of the Nativity), and the Baptism. Armenian manuscripts of the ninth and tenth centuries confirm the practice of painting large scenes on individual pages and grouping these miniatures of varying number together with the canon tables and the Evangelists' portraits in a special gathering at the beginning of the Gospels. This is the case for all illustrated Armenian Gospel manuscripts of the ninth and the tenth centuries (there are about fifteen), the single exception being the Gospels of 966 [64] already mentioned.

4. The Gospel Cycle: The Life of Christ

In both style and the elements of composition Armenian art is deeply indebted to Byzantine art. The Byzantine church, part of the universal church until the formal break with Rome in the eleventh century, developed a more rigid structure of great church feasts than did the Armenian, which after the fifth century went its own independent way. In the realm of art, the Greeks were deeply attached to the icon, a religious painting on wood, whereas the Armenians seemed never attracted by the medium and generally were against image worship and even their display in church. The Byzantine liturgical calendar celebrated the great Christian feasts; these were the main subjects for icons along with the Virgin [64] and favorite saints [88, 96, 115, 119].

By the eleventh and twelfth centuries large icons were painted which depicted in chronological sequence the church feasts. A standard cycle of twelve scenes came into being, whether because of the convenience of dividing icons into twelve panels or whether by association with the number of Apostles or both reasons, is not important. For centuries after, this cycle of twelve included the following subjects: the Annunciation [73, 93, 110], Nativity [61, 85, 109], Presentation in the Temple, Baptism [70, 72, 76], Transfiguration [113], Raising of Lazarus [83], Entry into Jerusalem [80], Crucifixion [106], Resurrection [91, 103], Ascension [63, 103, 108], Pentecost [68, 86, 102, 111], and Dormition of the Virgin.

The first six of these is concerned with Jesus's life from birth to his last week; the second six are concerned with Christ's passion and events following it. (The meaning of the scenes will be explained under the section devoted to iconography.)

All of these episodes are also important in the Armenian church except for the Dormition. In Armenia the worship of the Virgin Mary never developed as it did in the West. The Dormition of the Virgin, that is her death, is represented very few times in Armenian miniatures and usually under foreign influence. The Armenians, at least in their art, never developed a fixed number of twelve liturgical scenes, and cycles of sixteen miniatures and more are common. Other scenes were also employed; miracles like the Marriage Feast at Cana [105, 267], the Healing of the Paralytic [101], Washing of the Feet [114], Last Supper [82, 112], Entombment [97], Jesus with the Apostles after the Resurrection [89], Massacre or the Innocents [95], and the Stoning of St. Stephen [88].

We have already observed that in the Final Miniatures of the Etchmiadzin Gospel [61] there were only four scenes and the largest surviving cycle until the year 1000, contained in a late tenth century manuscript now in the Vienna Mekhitarist collection, is composed of only five scenes grouped together, beginning with the Sacrifice of Abraham (an event not part of the Gospel narrative), followed by the Annunciation, Nativity, Baptism, and ending with the Crucifixion.

In the eleventh century, the first part of which was a period of great prosperity under the Bagratids, Arts'runis and other dynasties, we have a clearer picture of the composition of Gospel miniatures. Of the forty surviving illustrated Gospel manuscripts or fragments from the eleventh century, some fifteen have one or more narrative paintings [68, 69, 70, 72] as opposed to only five from all the preceding periods. Five of these manuscripts have cycles of from seven to fifteen miniatures grouped together at the beginning of the codex. Scenes such as the Visitation, Last Supper [82, 112], Betrayal of Judas, Descent from the Cross, Entombment [97], and the Women at the Empty Tomb (Resurrection) [91, 103], make their appearance for the first time.

Two manuscripts from the middle of the eleventh century have very extensive cycles of large and small miniatures of major and minor episodes scattered throughout the four Gospels rather than grouped at the beginning. One of these codices, the famous, partially mutilated, Gospels of King Gagik of Kars [69], now in the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem, is of great artistic beauty and in style very dependent on Byzantine court art. The other, the newly discovered Gospel of the Catholicos, now in the Matenadaran in Erevan and probably executed in Arts'akh, is painted in a provincial, Armenian style, far removed from the classical tradition of the other. When manuscript production started again in the second half of the twelfth and especially the thirteenth centuries after the devastation of the Seljuk Turkish invasions, both methods of illustration -- grouping narrative miniatures together at the beginning or continuously illustrating the text with an expanded cycle -- were practiced.

H. Cilician Period

The greatest moment of Armenian miniature painting is the thirteenth century. The wealth of the new Armenian kingdom of Cilicia situated in the mountains surrounding the Mediterranean coastal plain allowed the nobility and high ranking clergy to sponsor the production of luxury Gospels [83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 265]. Contact with the West through the Crusades and Italian merchants also contributed to the creation of a highly sophisticated and eclectic art. In the same period several Armenian manuscripts were executed in Italy [84].

The most distinguished artist of the epoch was indisputably T'oros Roslin [85, 86, 87, 89, 90], who during the 1260s headed the scriptorium at the catholicossal see of Hromkla. Seven of his signed manuscripts have survived [89] and some fragments are also clearly attributed to him. His art is characterized by a delicacy of color, a very fine classical treatment of figures and their garments, an elegance of line, and an innovative iconography.

Roslin was a very accomplished scribe as well. The works that have come down to us are all extremely luxurious and use gold copiously for backgrounds and details. Roslin's decorative skill as seen on canon tables [90] and headpieces is also rich and varied. Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about his life nor the dates of the painter's birth and death.

Other artists working either with Roslin or in neighboring centers were also very skilled [88]. Toward the end of the century, the delicate rendering of Roslin gives way to a more nervous, mannered style evident in the superb Lectionary of king Het'um [91, 92, 265] dated 1286 with more than 200 miniatures of varying size.

Several manuscripts display this highly mannered style [93, 94, 95], but all of their artists remain anonymous.

In the next century the name of Sarkis Pidzak dominates artistic production. Though very prolific, he has much reduced the artistic conventions of the best of the Cilician artists such as Roslin and those working in the mannered style of the end of the thirteenth century. His figures are smaller and much less well drawn; his colors are bright but lacking the subtlety and renaissance echo of the third-quarter of the thirteenth century. Another important miniaturist of the fourteenth century working in the north, in Greater Armenia, was T'oros of Taron [102, 104]. His manuscripts are artistically of very high quality and iconographically very interesting. The newly published study on T'oros of Taron's art by T. Mathews and A. Sanjian will serve as a model for the proper study of individual Armenian manuscripts and artists.

I. Crimea, Vaspurakan, Julfa

After the thirteenth century, Armenian miniature painting flourishes simultaneously in a variety of regions each with a characteristic style. In the Crimea, where a large Armenian colony had gradually migrated after the fall of the Bagratid kingdom in the eleventh century, miniature painting was strongly influenced by the Byzantine classicizing style [105, 106, 108], with emphasis on naturalism. In Van/Vaspurakan, an opposing style became traditional, one naive in its outlook, probably of native Armenian inspiration [98, 101, 103, 107, 111, 112]. Figures with very round faces and large eyes with dark pupils were usually drawn against the white of the parchment or paper. The iconography of the Van school often departs from the standard, displaying at times echoes of an ancient tradition and at times an imaginatively original interpretation of the text. At the end of the sixteenth century, a talented school of miniaturists developed at Julfa on the Arax [117, 171], a rich merchant city whose adventurous traders established Armenian commerce from Amsterdam and Venice to Aleppo and India. After the city's destruction by Shah Abas in 1604 and the forced migration of its inhabitants to the newly created suburb -- New Julfa [57] -- of his capital Isfahan, artists from old Julfa [140, 154, 155] with the Julfa style continued to flourish throughout much of the seventeenth century.

J. Seventeenth Century and After

In the seventeenth century, in Constantinople, the Crimea, New Julfa and other centers, there was a conscious revival of the elegant Cilician style of miniature painting [119]. Leading artists understood that painting had greatly declined in the fifteenth and especially sixteenth centuries and consciously copied miniatures from the best Cilician Gospels available to them. Manuscript production continued in Armenia even into the late eighteenth century [120], even though Armenian book printing [276, 277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 287, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 295, 296] had begun in the early sixteenth. The copying of Gospel manuscripts practically stopped, however, after the first printing of the Armenian Bible in Amsterdam in 1666 [281].

The influence of western artistic tastes became evident after the sixteenth century with the increased involvement of Armenians in international trade. Interest in European painting grew among the wealthy in such Armenian centers as Constantinople and Isfahan-Julfa; Armenian artists began painting on panel and canvas. Armenian art began to include an ever increasing quantity of larger framed paintings, consequently, the art of the miniaturist declined, despite sporadic production throughout the eighteenth century.