• Istanbul, 1623
  • Vellum
  • Inv. LA152

Illuminated Bible

The spiritual, cultural and political identity of the Armenian communities was established and ensured, over the centuries, by the Armenian Church. After the invention of the Armenian alphabet and the translation of the Bible in the 5th century, the cultural inheritance of the Church, mainly with regard to the arts of the book, acquired its own identity and was affected by Persian, Byzantine and Syrian influences.

Khodja Nazar, a wealthy Armenian belonging to the New Julfa community in Persia, commissioned this Bible in Constantinople (now Istanbul), one of the centres of the Armenian patriarchate. Information about Nazar and the scribe, Hakob, is included in the inscription at the end of the book, as was usual in Armenian manuscripts.

This double-page miniature illustrates the beginning of the Old Testament, the Book of Genesis. The six days of the creation of the world are represented on lateral medallions and on the central area, on a gilt background, the creation of Adam and Eve, the Temptation and the Expulsion from Paradise.

Sir Malcolm MacGregor Collection. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Quaritch at the sale of the Sir Malcolm MacGregor Collection, Sotheby's, London, 15–18 November 1926 (no. 552).

H. 22.4 cm; W. 16.5 cm

New York 1999

Katharine Baetjer and James David Draper (eds.), 'Only the Best'. Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, exhibition catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, pp. 21–2, cat. 4.

Lisbon 2001

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2001, p. 70, cat. 50.

London 2001

Vrej Nersessian, Treasures from the Ark. 1700 Years of Armenian Christian Art, exhibition catalogue. London: The British Library, 2001, pp. 188–9, no. 117.

Updated on 22 april 2022

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