16. Liturgical texts and Prayers, illuminated manuscript on vellum with Hippopotamus skin binding.

(Ethiopia, 15th century)

DESCRIPTION

122 leaves, (leaf size approximately 250 x 180 mm), in gatherings from 6 leaves to 12 leaves, 1 leaf (f.115) loose. Text varying between 20 and 34 lines, 2 columns throughout, written in black ink with titles, subheadings, sacred names, numerals, etc., in red (addition of f.85v col. 2, in a large hand in red). Written throughout in various beautiful, bold, archaic hands ranging in size from av. 4 mm to av. 6 mm. Some erasures and corrections and insertions in a smaller but equally archaic hand. Original pricking and ruling mostly visible throughout. Some intercolumnar ornament in red and black. NINE ILLUMINATED HEAD PIECES + 2 small ornaments dividing the paragraphs, all variously coloured in red, yellow, black green and blue-grey. TWENTY FULL COLOUR MINIATURES, 3 with silk overlays, 4 black pages. Some wear and darkening of edges. Most of the miniatures have some damage. The paint has sometimes cracked and there is some offsetting from facing pages. the margins of some leaves have been trimmed off in order to utilise the parchment for amulets, charms and notes of contact.

PROVENANCE AND DATE

SIGNED BY THE ARTIST. There is a collophon in the manuscript, on f.105v, which states, ‘This book belongs to Walda Mika’el and his father S’agga Za’ab and his mother S’eyon Kerbra. Walda Rufa’el painted the book.’ Walada Ruda’el’s name is also inserted in an invocation for blessing on folio 110v. The dating of early Ethiopian manuscripts is notoriously problematic. the form of the script, showing a number of archaic letter shapes, points to an early date and the style of the illumination is that of the earliest surviving Ethiopian manuscript.  This places it before the Moslem invasion at the beginning of the 16th century. Two of the Saints portrayed in the miniatures however suggest a date after the middle of the 15th century. ‘Saint’ Gabra Krestos, folio 106v, lived during the reign of the Emperor Zar Jacob (1434-68) and the Abba Sincoda, folio 107, was executed during the 1430s. It is unlikely that they would have been the subject of miniatures until after death.

TEXT

The manuscript properly begins on folio 9, the first 8 leaves being misplaced from the end. The contents are:

ff.10-60 Book of Hours of the day and the night. Subsections are identified as follows. (f.20) prayers for the third hour; (f.23) prayers for the seventh hour; (f.26) prayers for the ninth hour; (f.29) prayers for the evening; (f.33) prayers for sleepl (f.39) prayers for midnight.

ff.62-85 conatins various prayers: (f.62) Prayer for the Consolation of the Faith as we believe in Mary’; (f.65r) ‘Prayer for All Time(s)’; (f.69v) ‘Prayer for mercy’; (74r) ‘Prayer for Midnight’; (f.75v) ‘Prayer to the King of Praise’; (f.81v) ‘Prayer and Vow for the Forgiveness of Sin’; (f.85r) ‘Prayer and Praise of the Divinity an Vow to the King of Praise’; (f.85v) The ten Commandments (in red).

ff 87-105 contains liturgical texts and hymns: (f.87) ‘Hymn to Our Lord Jesus Christ which is to be read on Sunday before the Weddase maryam (Praise to mary)’; (f.94r) ‘Prayer for Monday’; (f.95r) ‘Prayer for Tuesday; (f.97r) ‘prayer for Wednesday’; (99r) ‘Prayer for Thursday’; (f.102v) ‘Praise for Friday’.

ff108 contains the Gospel of St.John. there is however a break of a page between the two blocks of text.

ILLUMINATION

This manuscript is an exmple of the earlist geometric style of Ethiopian illumination. Although Christianity arrived in the country in the 4th century, no paintings or manuscripts can be formally dated before the late 13th or early 14 centuries. The few examples that survive from the 14th or 15th centuries are broadly similar in style, with forms and iconography stemming from Byzantine and Syrian painting. the Chief charecteristics of this style are strong frontal figures articulated by geometric backgrounds.

Lot. 15 £50,000

Text and Image – Bloomsbury Auctions“Antiquarian Books & Ancient Manuscripts,” Catalogue 12, 1989

Durme, Hermosa Donzella – Jordi Savall : Lunissanti, Miserere – Enzo Favata : Symphony No.3, II Lento e largo, Tranquillissimo – Gorecki : In Darkness Let Me Dwell – John Downland : Il Prologo: Alba – Gianluigi Trovesi : Rite Of Passage A – Meredith Monk : Dos Kelbl (The Little Calf) – Iva Bittova : Da Pacem Domine – Arvo Part : Viderunt omnes – Perotin : Mothertongue: IV. Monster – Nico Muly : Mieke’s Melody #5 – Meredith Monk : Jolson and Jones – Scott Walker : Quatuor pour Cora, Dance of the Vampires – Iva Bittova – 65 Mins

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