The 11th century Illustrations of Mandylion
and Abgar's cycle from Georgian Manuscript A-484 in the context of
the Byzantine Book Art
The paper is an attampt at studing the
illustrations of the apocryphal cycle of Abgar, king of Edessa, as exemplified
by Georgian Gospel-Book A-484 (the co-called Alaverdi Gospel, manuscript
made and illustrated at the Georgian scriptorium of Kalipos monastery on the
Black Mountain, near Antioch before 1055).
Next to the traditional elements, manuscript includes the text of the
correspondence between King Abgar and Christ, "Epistle of King written to
Our Lord, Jesus Christ" and the history of baptism of Edessian King.
The story of King Abgar miraculous recovery from illness when Christ sent
him Mandylion with an impression of His Face has a Syriac background. The
tradition of attaching this story to the Gospel text can be found only in
Georgian manuscripts. Most Greek manuscripts containing the illustrated story
are menologies or epistle texts. In A-484, five scenes have been inserted
in the text: 1.King Abgar sending a letter to Christ (f.216v): 2.Christ answering
the King (f.318r); 3.The Mandylion (f.320v): 4. a view of the city Edessa
(f.321v): 5.King Abgar's baptism(f.323v).
A detailed comparative, iconographic analysis of the miniatures has shown
that brief, arcahaic version of the text offers a corresponding laconic depictions.
Miniatures of Abgar legend, used in the illumination of A-484, illustrate
a combination of two motifs: correspondence and the theme of Mandylion.
Our research is directed towards the investigation of parallels in Byzantine
Art. This investigation leads to specific conclusions about iconography of
The master of Alaverdi Gospel inserts this cycle into the Georgian Gospe-Book
as the reflection of Symbol, connected with the Idea of Incarnation
and with the including of "historical" scenes crestes one of the earliest
original interpretation of Abgar's story's illustrated cycle, with its own
artistic-aesthetic, historical and theological significance.
last updated: 20.04.2006
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