Entitled The Outsider: Hakob and Armenian Illumination, the exhibition displays the Gospels illuminated by Hakob Jughayets‘i, the most celebrated Armenian illuminator of the 16th century.
The Pozzi Gospels, completed by Hakob Jughayets‘i in the winter of 1586, includes an extraordinary series of portraits, narrative miniatures and marginal figures. The manuscript contains narrative cycles drawn from the Old Testament and the Gospels, the evangelists and paired images of Christ and the Virgin. In the colophon, Hakob explains that he copied and illuminated the manuscript under the protection of a church in the city of Keghi (modern Ki?i, fifty miles south-west of Erzerum). At the time he was itinerant and, when passing through Erzerum on his way to Istanbul, Hakob records that he had met a priest, Astuatsatur, who invited him to travel back to Keghi. With a humility born of convention as much as conviction, Hakob describes himself as ‘the most useless of the servants of God’ and the ‘false-living deacon of Jugha’. He remarks that the book was completed at ‘a bitter time’, again a familiar expression found in many colophons. In this instance, however, he could be referring to the war that raged between the Safavid and Ottoman empires across Armenia during the 1580s, or to his precarious personal circumstances and the harshness of winter.
The study of this manuscript for this exhibition has resulted in a publication on Hakob’s life and career. Researched and written by Dr Timothy Greenwood and Dr Edda Vardanyan, and published by Paul Holberton, Hakob’s Gospels: The Life and Work of an Armenian Artist of the Sixteenth Century is the first monograph to trace Hakob’s development in Armenia in the 1580s to his later works in Safavid Persia, at Isfahan, in 1607 and 1610.
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