MASHTOTS INSTITUTE OF OLD MANUSCRIPTS UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OF THE ARMENIAN SSR
About a century ago, Armenian illuminated manuscripts attracted the attention of scholars and lovers of art. Since that time intensive studies of medieval Armenian art have been conducted. A unique historical panorama of the art of illumination in Armenia, embracing more. than thirteen centuries has been given (the first surviving miniatures date from the VI-VII centuries, while the latest ones were created in the XIX century). The heritage of a number of miniature schools and their outstanding representatives have been studied; the significance of medieval Armenian painting in the history of world art has been revealed. Although a considerable number of studies have been made, from the 25 thousand surviving Armenian manuscripts, most of them illuminated, many have not yet been published. Such masterpieces as the Etchmiadzin Gospel (Matenadaran, cod. 2374, dated 989), the, Gospel of Queen Mlke (Venice, cod. 1144/86, dated 862), the Targmanchatz Gospel (Matenadaran, cod. 2743, dated 1232), the Hetum lectionary (Matenadaran, cod. 979, dated 1286) and others which require special monographic study, are presented by separate miniatures only in works more general in nature. Among the best examples of medieval Armenian illumination are those of the following two manuscripts: codex 7482  and 6305of the Mashtots Matendaran, Grigor Tatevatsi and Anonymous painter of Syuniq having participated in their creation (Pic. 1, 2). The above-mentioned manuscripts have been created in Syuniq , one of the largest regions of historical Armenia. Its eastern frontiers stretched to Artsakh; in the west, to Ayrarat and Vaspurakan; in the north, to Utik and Gugark, and in the south, to the Arax River (22, 12). The significance of Syuniq in respect to the spiritual treasures created there during various periods were not always on the same level. As regards the variety and significance of cultural values whose origin depended upon the general political and socio-economic situation of the country, the most interesting is the post-Arabic period (X-XI cc) which coincides with the rise and flourishing of the Syuniq kingdom. Liberation from the Arab yoke and the political independence attained by a number of Armenian feudal lords brought about long years of peace and favoured the economic and cultural revival of the country. The monastery of Tatev became the centre of this new life in the country (Pic. 3). This famous complex is situated near the village of Tatev on a picturesque plateau, separated from the nearby deep ravines and tree-covered mountains, by steep slopes.The most interesting architectural edifice of the Monastery is the Church of St. Peter and Paul (895-906), the remarkable frescoes of which were executed by Armenian artists and others invited from the West  (22, 256; 14, 9; 38, 180-242; 37, 93-96).These frescoes (the Last Judgment, in particular) (Pic.4) have special value in the history of monumental art and are of exclusive value in determining the iconographic sources of analogous subjects and in revealing the creative relationships between the East and the West . The Church of the Virgin, the library, the refectory, living quarters "swinging" (Pic. 5)unique column erected in the middle of the courtyard date back to the same period. Tatev was not the only monasterial centre in Syuniq. There were other monasterial-ecclesiastical centres in that part of the land. Among them is the Gndevank Monastery (Pic. 6), built in 936 on the initiative of Sophie, the wife of the Syuniq prince Smbat , soon became one of the outstanding tutorial centres of Syuniq. The frescoes on the monastery walls, of which unfortunately very few have survived, were executed by priest Eghishe.
Bkheno-Noravank, a monastery richly decorated with thematic bas-relief situated not far from Tatev,  is one of the unique architectural monuments of Syuniq. It was here that the famous Etchmiadzin Gospel was created .
The monuments mentioned above reveal the creative ardour existing in the most flourishing post-Arabic period of the cultural life of Syuniq. At just that time, a school of arts was founded in Syuniq with Tatev as the centre. Stepanos Orbelian, the historian of Syuniq, describes Tatev of that period in bright colours. "... As bright as the sun among stars, it was distinguished not only for its constructions but also for its priestly and monastic rank, reaching 500 in number. It was also rich in devoted connoisseurs of music and song and its school was outstanding for its ecclesiastical education and for its famous painters and scribes..." (22, 226). However, the economic and cultural development of Syuniq was interrupted by Seljuk invasions.
Neither its geographical position with inaccessible mountains and ravines, nor the courage of the people could halt the Seljuk hordes. With the capture of the Baghaberd fortress in 1170, which had been the centre of Syuniq since 1103, the kingdom lost its independence. The spiritual treasures in Tatev and other Syuniq monasteries brought there, some ten thousand manuscripts, were barbarously destroyed (22, 226).
In the 40's of the XIII century, Armenia was subjected to other raids; this time Mongols invaded the country. The cruel Mongolian yoke, lasting than a hundred years, caused tremendous damage to the prospering towns and the developed agriculture.
During this widespread decline in Armenia, Syuniq was one of those regions enjoying relatively favourable conditions. The advantageous position of Syuniq was conditioned by the clever diplomacy of the noble families, the Orbelians and the Proshians, and particularly by their brilliant representative, Smbat Orbelian. Beginning from the middle of the XIII century, the Orbelians managed to improve their position in Syuniq, secure privileges and ensure peace in that region for some decades. While a wave of migration swept over the various regions of Armenia, it was quite the contrary in Syuniq. Refugees from other regions, robbed and plundered, moved to Syuniq in the hope of safety.
All that, in turn, created favourable conditions for the development of culture. During the XIII-XIV centuries, the creative activities of many skilled architects, sculptors, talented poets and painters, close to the Orbelians and Proshians, unfolded in the cultural centres of Syuniq. That was the time when the remarkable Ayrivank with rock-cut churches, the Church of Spitakavor and Noravank were erected. Unprecedented development was noted in the art of relief decorations of secular and lay constructions with great diversity and beauty. New schools were opened. Among them the University of Gladzor which became the outsanding centre of higher education for all Armenia. It was followed by the universities of Tatev, Aprakounis and Hermon, which at the same time, became well-known centres of manuscript writing and miniature painting.
Gladzor University was founded in 1282 by Nerses Mshetsi and functioned for some sixty years. A unique school of painting was organized here, in which the traditions of miniature painting schools of central. Armenia and Cilicia were combined. Some particular features of miniature painting worked out by representatives of the Gladzor school were later reflected in the works of painters in different centres of Syuniq, among them in Tatev manuscrpts, the main successor of Gladzor traditions. The Tatev centre of science, whose origin and the initial period of flourishment dated from the X-XI centuries, enjoyed a later upsurge in the 70's of the XIV century, at the time when Hovhan Vorotnetsi, the famous philosopher, was headmaster (10, 192). After his death (in 1386), the University was headed by his capable pupil Grigor Tatevatsi ( 10, 193). Under Tatevatsi's guidance the University became, as contemporaries called it, "the second Athens" and a "centre of wisdom". Students came to Tatev from all parts of Armenia, even from faraway Cilicia; the number of students sometimes reached one hundred. Much valuable information on teaching at the University, the subjects taught at the various departments during Grigor Tatevatsi's time, have been preserved. "... There were three departments in the monastery of Tatev: at one of them a former singer taught religious music of such sweet-sounding melodies that pupils came to him from other towns, from all parts of the country. At the second, drawing and reproductions of scenes were taught, and at the third, religious books and scientific books of Antiquity were studied, translated and interpreted..." (8, 428).
Accepting this chronological evidence that a department of fine arts functioned at Tatev University, we may suppose that a considerable number of illuminated manuscripts were created there in the XIV-XV centuries and quite probably, Tatev had its own school of miniature painting. Unfortunately, it is impossible, at present, to give a complete picture of that school, as only very few of those manuscripts have survived. (The Matenadaran has codices 5303, 7482, 4019, 3104, 3955, 4164 and others). Only three (codices 5303, 4019, 7482) of those mentioned have sufficient material for research. The rest have only titlepages and marginal illustrations. It may safely be said that the creative work at Tatev in the XIV-XV centuries was not free from the Gladzor influence, and furthermore, specific features of the art of Grigor Tatevatsi, headmaster of the University, were characteristic of most of the manuscripts illuminated at Tatev. Such qualities as monumentalism, expressive images, thickly satiated use of reds, blues, violets, profusion of ornaments, continued to exist till the XVI- XVII centuries in those miniature painting centres connected with Tatev.
Grigor Tatevatsi (Pic. 7) was one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenia. He is known as a philosopher, a social-ecclesiastical figure, a teacher, scribe and miniaturist. He was born in 1346 in Vayots-Dzor where he spent his early years (10, 103). He began to study under Hovhan Vorotnetsi in 1370. Together with the latter, Tatevatsi went to Jerusalem and it was Vorotnetsi who ordained him archimandrite in the district of Daranaghi in 1373. After his teacher's death, Tatevatsi headed the higher schools at Tatev and Aprakounis. He taught philosophy, theology and grammar at higher monasterial schools of Tatev, Aprakounis, Medsop and Yerevan (3, 221). He died in 1409 and was buried near the St. Peter and Paul Church in Tatev.
The most significant of Grigor Tatevatsi's activities were those in Tatev, where he was invited in 1393 by the Syuniq prince Smbat Orbelian. He worked there for fifteen years; those years being the most flourishing for the University. He conducted extensive pedagogical worK and enjoyed wide repute, He combined alt-round knowledge with in-born oratorical skill. Thovma Medsopetsi, Arakel Syunetsi, Mattheos Djughayetsi and ther famous figures in XV century Armenian culture were pupils of Grigor Tatevatsi.
Great was Grigor Tatevatsi's role in the struggle led by the Armenian Church against the Unitarians.
Grigor Tatevatsis rich literary heritage covers almost all the fields of knowledge of that time. His more important works are: "Book of Questions", "Book of Sermons" (Summer and Winter volumes), 'Miscellany", Concise Analysis on Porphyrys Work" and a number of others. His works, encyclopedic in nature, also contain valuable thoughts on aesthetics, which help in understanding certain aspects of his art and that of medieval art generally.
Grigor Tatevatsis aesthetic views do not, of course, give a complete doctrine. It refers  to separate thoughts and remarks scattered in different works in which he tried to explain his concepts of beauty, reveal the meaning of art and the role of art in society as well as problems on Khristian symbolism of iconography and questions directly concerning to the practical work of the artist.
Art, for Grigor Tatevatsi, was a form of "rational" knowledge, the fruit of thought and work, "Each work of art is at first thought about, then been through the eyes, and only after that, is it created by hand".
Grigor Tatevatsi began his work as a scribe. Numerous manuscripts have survived with colophons written by him. However, his name as an illuminator is mentioned only once, in the Gospel illustrated at the Tatev Monastery in the year 1378. The Gospel was copied in 1297 in Eghegis, the ''glorified capital" of Syuniq. In the same year the scribe of the Gospel, Hovhan, executed khorans (canon tables)  and marginal illustrations. Simple plant and geometric designs prevail in the canon tables. In 1378, some one hundred years after its creation, the priest Sargis sent the manuscript to the Tatev Monastery to be restored and illustrated by the illuminator Grigor.
The following miniatures were painted at that same time: portraits of the four evangelists, titlepages and five thematic miniatures: the "Annunciation", "Nativity", "Entry into Jerusalem", "Crucifixion" and "Virgin and. Child". The identity of the painter of these miniatures becomes clear from the colophon around the bay in the "Annunciation". The colophon clearly states that the painter is Grigor, a pupil of Hovhan Vorotnetsi. The colophons surviving, as well as general features of the miniatures created in 1378 served as the basis for art historians to make the statement that ; all the miniatures made that year had been done by one and the same master, Grigor Tatevatsi. There are, however, certain stylistic differences wich suggest that yet another master, probably a pupil of Grigor Tatevatsi, also took part in the illumination of the manuscripts. In those miniatures Grigor Tatevatsi's influence is so strong that, at first glance, all Christological miniature paintings are taken as the work of one artist.
Taking the miniature the "Annunciation" created by Grigor Tatevatsi as a basis, we come to the conclusion that the portraits of the evangelists, the titlepages and the miniatures the "Annunciation", "Nativity" (Illus. 14-15) have been created by Grigor Tatevatsi; the other three miniatures "Entry into Jerusalem", "Crucifixion" and the "Virgin and Child" (Illus. 16-18) by the pupil.
Essential differences which permit speaking of two painters and dividing the miniatures of the manuscript into two groups are expressed, by differences in ways of thinking, concepts and interpretation of form. In Grigor Tatevatsi's works, the figures, especially those of the "Annunciation", are monumental and to a certain extent, dimensional. The folds of the garments are treated by means of colour, emphasizing the harmony and proportions of the body. The faces are drawn with a sure, precise hand. As for the second painter, his drawings are somewhat weaker and that is especially seen in the figure of the Virgin (in the "Virgin and Child" and "Crucifixion"). The execution of the other figures is also not successful; they are rather stocky and not so proportional. Flatness is stressed and is especially expressed in the folds of the garments; they are stiff and not at all flexible.
The compositional structure of the page itself is also expressed by the differences in these two groups of miniatures. In the first group (the portraits of the evangelists, the "Annunciation" and "Nativity") the composition is encircled by homogeneous ornamental frames. In the second group ("Entry into Jerusalem", "Crucifixion", "Virgin and Child"), there is no frame. One or two sides of the composition have no ornamental frame decorations. It seems as if the painter, by means of this device, wants to free the picture of limiting borders, thus increasing the dimensional possibilities of the miniature.
The miniatures also differ in their colour-range. Grigor Tatevatsi preferred dark shades of blue, brown, red and ochre; while the second painter preferred lighter shades. It must be said that the latter is professionally inferior to Grigor Tatevatsi. The above-stated differences do not refute the presence of features common to both groups of miniatures, which were apparently conditioned by the ccrnmon aim placed before the painters. They tried to give the manuscript a complete effect, and so the pupil, in fulfilling this task, endeavoured to imitate his talented master and sometimes even meticulously copied his interpretation of images harmony of colour and ornaments. The more beautiful miniature of the manuscript is the "Annunciation", where Grigor Tatevatsi's talent, his great imaginative powers and originality are brilliantly expressed. (It is not at all incidental that he placed his signature on this miniature).
The "Annunciation" is depicted within a closed ornamental frame, the composition is well-balanced. Its focal point is the small bay in which there is a jug of water. There are decorative arches to the left and the right of the bays. The figures are placed against an ornamental background, which gives the composition balance. The background, entirely covered with geometric and plant designs, deprives, the miniature of depth. This lack is the reason why it seems as though the figures do not have sufficient space. This device stresses the monumentalism of the figures. The image of Mary is quite expressive (Pic. 8). Her features, face, eyes and especially thick eyebrows uniting over her nose, form an unusual arch, emphasizing the Armenian woman's ethnic type. The angel and Mary are bound by the same action but they represent different emotional states, revealed also by means of the colouring of the miniature. Warm red and yellow prevail in the clothing of the angel bearing happy tidings; while in Marys garment, the combination of cold blue and deep violet shows her contradictory feelings, that of joy and deep concern. Great skill is displayed in depicting the figures, their gestures, their movements. Somewhat elongated figures are remarkable for their shapeliness and proportions. Both the Virgin and the Archangel are distinguished by their grandeur and beauty. It is appropriate here to recall the definition of beauty given by Grigor Tatevatsi, which is in consonance with the images created by him. "One should know that the beauty of the image becomes similar to that of the prototype revealed in three-fold manner: first in the proportionality of form; second in the balance of the parts, and third in proper radiance". (5, 271).
This name, in all probability, comes as a surprise to those who know from works on medieval Armenian art that the illuminator of manuscript cod. 6305 was Grigor of Tatev. This was the name given by the well-known connoisseur of medieval Armenian art, L. A. Durnovo, who was the first to study and publish the miniatures of that manuscript (24, 49-51; 25, 49-50;. 26, 209-210). Durnovo considered Grigor. whose name was mentioned in the colophon, to be the scribe of the text and also the illuminator. However, as of today, the supposition has not been sufficiently proved. So far as the manuscript does not contain any indication as to the place where it was created, we reject the name Grigor of Tatev accepted by certain scholars and suggest the name 'Anonymous Painter of Syuniq'. We thus take into consideration the fact that though the miniatures of codex 6305 are stylistically close to the works of Grigor, Tatevatsi, they are in many ways tied to works of other XIV century painters of Syuniq, especially Toros Taronatsi, Momik, Kirakos Davrizhetsi and others. There is yet another point which leads us to change the name. Some scholars studying manuscripts cod. 7482 and cod. 6305, confuse Grigor Tatevatsi with the illuminator of manuscript 6305 (34, 75; 27, 125; 14, 15; 29, 56). An insignificant difference in the names of the two painters is the reason I for that confusion-in the one case, it is Grigor Tatevatsi and in the other, Grigor of Tatev. The colophon of codex 6305 does not give any information on the date it was created. However, that did not prevent L. A. Durnovo from giving the approximate date of the work by means of parallels and comparison as being the end of the XIV and the beginning of the XV centuries.
A comparison of both manuscripts shows that the Anonymous Painter developed some. artistic features typical of Grigor Tatevatsi, as well as the evident similarities of miniatures of the Anonymous Painter of Syuniq, especially in the portraits of the "evangelists with those of Grigor Tatevatsi.
It must be considered, however, that neither the iconographic types of the evangelists nor the architectural compositions are exact copies of Grigor Tatevatsis  works. There are cases when Armenian (and not only Armenian) painters copied compositions of well-known works, imitating the originals as much as possible, more often using characteristic elements of other manuscripts, subjecting them to their own artistic style, to the preferences of society and the demands of the time. The painters thus gave them new expressiveness and new effect. In this respect, the art of the Anonymous Painter is not an exception. Though his illustrations are fundamentally based on Grigor Tatevatsi's art in monumentalism, rhythmically balanced composition, exceptionally rich and varied decorative elements, the miniatures of codex 6305 reveal the artist's individual approach. They manifest, in particular, their joyous, sonorous colouring and a new kind of ornamentation. Grigor Tatevatsi, for example, preferred broad, frieze-like zones consisting, of different acanthus and grape weavings organically connected with architectural planes and producing an impression of bas-relief. The ornaments of the Anonymous Painter, on the other hand, are small, four-petalled flowers, bouquets, star-shaped motifs, variations of geometric (oval and round) forms. They cover the background, the clothing of the characters, the walls of architectural structures, and it seems as if in their abundance, they would blend with the real shapes. The two-storeyed building with an open veranda depicted in the architectural setting of Grigor Tatevatsi's composition in the portrait of the evangelist Luke (Illus. 8) presents a type of building prevalent at that time, while the painter of cod. 6305, being inclined to turn realistic forms into ornaments in the miniature with similar content (Illus. 25), presented the veranda without its functional meaning but simply as a decor encircling the building.
The entry '1387' on the final flyleaf of the manuscript presents considerable interest from the point of view of its dating. It is known that the manuscript underwent restoration, as a result of which the order of the miniatures in the manuscript was not retained. (We have made an attempt to determine the original order of miniatures in this album). Probably the restorer threw out those pages which had become decrepit and, together with them, the page with the information concerning its date. To preserve that information, he made a short entry ('1387') on the new flyleaf. Some of the miniatures of manuscript cod. 6305 are incomplete (canon tables, scenes from the Bible). Unfortunately the history of the manuscript is unknown and it is difficult to understand why the illuminator had not completed his work. These unfinished miniatures make it possible to have an idea of the painter's technical methods (Pic. 9, 11, 12,). He started to compose with a slight but definite drawing. Then he proceeded with bright water-colours to colour the background, define general relations of colours and only after that did he start colouring different details. Pure colours were applied in wide strokes of the brush equally distributed. Then with a thin, sometimes, very fine brush, details were coloured, giving the outlines of figures and objects. Such an application of colour resulted in the flattening of figures. The faces have a certain three-dimensional quality as a result of colour-arid-shade treatment. Faces were usually painted at the end. Great importance was attached to the presentation of the face, for in medieval art (as is well-known) it was only through the face (especiulIy the eyes) that profound faith could be expressed. In that connection, the following words of Grigor Tatevatsi are interesting: "... When painters depict arms and legs, the image of a man does not appear, but only his arms and legs. But when the face is drawn, the image of a man is immedietely revealed". (5, 255).
From the very first glance the art of manuscript cod. 6305 is most attractive in its harmony of hrioht colours and its softness. One can sense the hand of an experienced painter whose art has its sources in folk-art, qualities that lend sincere poetical character and spontaneity to his works.
The ornamental motifs which the painter blends into his composition render a peculiar completion to the scenes. As a rule they cover the whole found of the miniature, each time expressing itself in new combination. The ornament could be considered as a sound accompaniment to the actions taking place, at the same time, helpful in comprehending the nuances of the mood of the given scene.
There are many elements from reality in the miniatures, which reveal the character of Painter of Syuniq's way of thinking. .The painter depicted national types clothes, and daily objects with great care. They are full of thrill of life and do not contradict the strict canons of Christian iconography, lending charm to the miniatures. The miniatures of the manuscript are a kind of creative unity of national traditions and individual creative for??, being outstanding for their monumentalism and decorative buoyancy inherent in folk-art.
Painter's rich imagination is revealed especially in the titlepages (Illus. 27-30). Their composition is thoroughly thought out and constructed according to plan, so that each element of the composition has independent function. The head-piece presents a kind of decorative unit consisting of plant, bird-like and geometric elements (Pic. 10).As a rule it occupies half of the composition and is arranged as a rectangle stretching a bit along the horizontal lines. In the middle of the lower part of the rectangle, there is a small trefoil. The other half of the composition is ocuppied by three illustrated lines from the Gospel text. The initial, being a peculiar support for the head-piece rectangle, stretches along the three lines of the text arranging the left part of the page, while the splendid, interlaced marginal on the right half of the miniature balances the entire composition (Pic.13). Each decorative-element of the titlepage (headpiece, text, initial, marginal) has its own independent artistic value, being, at the same time, an inseparable component of the integral composition. Af first the the painter arouses admiration for the beauty of the headpieces. In one case (Illus. 27), this is a green area consisting of different kinds of flowers: the ornamental frame of intricate rosettes with crowned sirens divides it into two parts; these sirens blend with the ornaments and become part of them. In another case (Illus. 28), it is a composition consisting of four semicircles executed with a subtle appreciation of line and colour. In the third case (Illus. 30), it is an interlacing of small decorative elements; and in the forth (Illus. 29), it is a correlation of cross-shaped and starshaped geometric forms (Pic. 14).
The absence of intervals between the headpiece, the text and the marginal ormaments, the calm rhythm of the composition and graphical drawings give the miniature the impression of an ornamental carpet. Here the originality of the artist in forming the illustrated page, his new attitude to-yards the interrelation of the whole and its parts is demonstrated.
The portraits of the four evangelists (Illus. 23-26) create a firm unity with the titlepages.
Scenes from-the-Bible and apocryphal books (Illus. 31-34, 48-49) which beginning from the XIV century were widespread in Armenia in illustrated Gospels, occupy a considerable place in the manuscript.
The Anonymous Painter of Syuniq chose such subjects from the Old Testament which are immediately connected with the main tenets of the New Testament. In all the scenes from the Bible, God the Father is presented in the image of Christ. This iconographic type generally accepted in medieval art can be explained by the fact that the presentation of God the Father was prohibited by the Church for a long time. The two incarnations of the Holy Trinity, God the Father and the Holy Ghost might not be personified as humans. Only Jesus Christ who had lived an earthly life, might be presented in this way. That is why, based on certain texts of the Gospel (St. John: X, 30, 38, XII, 45; XIV, 7, 9) ("I and my Father are one"; "And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me" and others) painters presented God the Father in the person of Christ as did the Anonymous Painter (Pic. 15).
The above-mentioned manuscript is rare in its original iconography of certain scenes as, for instance, the "Annunciation" (ill. 35) is treated as genre scene; the peasant woman in a flowered dress with a jug on her shoulder is standing near the spring ready to get some water when she suddenly hears a voice and turns towards the voice in amazement (Pic. 16). Her reaction is so natural, her clothing, her jug and the double stream so true-to-life that the painter must have been guided by life around him. Although the background of the miniature presents a kind of unreal, abstract scene, the figures soar in that space; yet the painter introducing everyday realities into his compositions, managed to create an impression of the real life in his environment.
Mary is slightly agitated and her image is endowed with soft lyricism. The blue of her clothing is repeated in the blue of the sky, thus connecting the upper and lower parts of the miniature; while the ornamented pink background creates the entire painted surface, lending a festive mood.
The painter's general disposition, his treatment of ethnic details, his attempt to bring spontaneity of life into canonized religious scenes, in many ways recalls Markare, the painter of the "Hakhbat" Gospel (Matenadaran, cod. 6288, dated 1211), who also treated the subject in an unusual manner in the miniature "Entry into Jerusalem".
The iconographic sources of the "Annunciation" in manuscript cod. 6305 should be looked for in the Apocrypha. The nearest analogy to this miniature in medieval Armenian art is the one in the Matenadaran manuscript codex 7739 (dated 1001).
The painter's contacts with life and folk traditions are revealed in the miniature "Nativity" (Illus. 36). The miniature has an iconographic detail- an apple in Mary's hand (Pic.17). This is a detail which as a rule does not exist in other works of Armenian miniature on the same subject, while other peoples, especially those in the West. often present the Virgin with an apple, a pomegranate or some other fruit in her hand. Thus each fruit has some symbolic significance: the pomegranate, for example, presents the blood which Christ shed for mankind; the apple in this miniature probably symbolizes the Virgin's purity. This reflects a very ancient Armenian custom, according to which the groom's parents, being convinced of their daughter-in-law's innocence, present her with a red apple. The painter probably had a similar basis in depicting Mary with a red apple in her hand as a symbol of her virginity.
A unique quality of the miniature "Entry into Jerusalem" (Illus. 40) may also be explained by the obvious influence of folk rites. The miniature, with its iconography and principal features of the composition is well-known in Armenia, while the sounding of bells most worthy of attention is unknown elsewhere (Pic. 18). Neither the Bible nor apocryphal literature offer any ground for its introduction into the scene. It may be explained only by church rituals; there being a widely spread flower festival in Armenia. At midnight on the day of the festival, the youth bring branches of willow into the church. The priest makes his appearance, the bells ring and people gather. After the priest had given his blessings, the branches were planted in their yards (7, 344-345). In order to add freshness to religious iconographic forms of the scene, the painter of the miniature made use of elements, taken from folk rites.
The original creative attitude of the painter can also be seen in the iconography "The Rise of Lazarus", "Pentecost", "Dormitionof the Virgin".
In the ''Rise of Lazarus" (Illus. 41) the painter avoided the widespread Byzantine composition, according to which Lazarus was presented buried not in a cave but in an ordinary earth grave (Pic. 19). Lazarus' sisters are likewise depicted in an untraditional way. They are not kneeling at Christ`s feet, but are among the people gathered to watch the miracle. Special interest and artistic value is the presentation of the four holy warriors: Serge, (Illus. 50), Theodore, (Illus. 52), Mercury, (Pic. 21), (Illus. 51), George (Illus. 53) in one manuscript, each on a separate page. Separate image of the holy warriors may be seen in a number of different of miniatures of Gladzor, Cilicia, Vaspurakan .and also in reliefs and frescoes of certain Armenian churches. The warriors are shown working various miracles. Not one of them has been preserved on the miniatures. Proceeding from the "Lives of the Saints" and the partial inscriptions surviving on the miniatures, the nature of the fragments and their iconographic characteristics, it has been possible to restore their names (15, 77-83). Thus folio 281v presents St. Serge with his son Martiros; this is the standard iconographic presentation of this holy. Folio 282r presents St. Theodore. Folio 283v presents St. Mercury whose main miracle is the slaying of Julian the apostate. Folio 284r presents St. George. All these miniatures are executed with great inspiration. The painter pictures horsemen riding horses in different positions. In one case the horse is rushing with its head high; in another, it is going to stamp on the dragon with his hoofs. In the miniature, the harmony of bright colours is thoroughly though out. Wherever the painter introduces colours in his composition he never distorts the sense of proportion. Not only does he proceed from the principle of interrrelation of all parts of the miniature but he tries to coordinate it with the composition on the opposite page, since horsemen have been placed on opposite adjacent pages so that the two of them
may be seen as an entity of different forms. Pacrticular attention paid in the manuscript to the Holy Warriors is exceptional. Had the painter any definite purpose in depicting them so? Mnatzakanian (16, 585) speaking on the origin of the cult of the Holy in medieval Armenia and correlating it with ancient pagan beliefs and miythology, points out that the mythological motif of combatting with a dragon as a result of centuries of thinking, was widespread in Christian art. New forms were based on old ones and old conceptions were replaced by new ones. The new essential idea of horses fighting dragons becomes in Christian art the struggle against the 'devils', i. e., pagans. Often, however, the painter, in the presentation of 'devils, figuratively expresses generalized ideas. The Armenian people, suffering under various foreign oppression often dreamed of getting rid of the oppressor, the devil. It is quite possible that the Armenian painter gave definite meaning to the presentation of these warriors, seeing in them those national heroes who would overcome brow evil and liberate the people.
Miniature painting is one of those essential forms of medieval thinkingof art, for which canons were elaborated for many centuries, which had absolute universal value. The ability to express his own thoughts through this absotute value raises the medieval master to the level of individuality. There were such individualities in Armenian miniature painting. Among them may be mentioned Grigor Tatevatsi and the Anonymous Painter of Syuniq, whose sincere, talented art arouses admiration up to the present.
Compiled, introduction and commentaries by ALVIDA MIRZOYAN
Editors: E. M. KORKHMAZIAN, B. L. CHOUKASZIAN
"Sovetakan grogh" publishing house, 1987 Erevan