Schools of Miniature Painting
Artsax-Utiq | Vaspurakan | Upper Armenia | Gladzor | Crimea | Italy

Doctor of artistic sciences

Doctor of artistic sciences




In the cultural heritage of the Armenian people the art of manuscript illumination occupies a prominent place. Medieval painting has found here its brightest expression, reflecting the highest medieval esthetical principles and the distinctive features of the Armenian artistic mentality. The manuscript painting forms a special branch of art, the monuments of which have come down to us more intact than those of fresco painting, the latter being strongly damaged as a result of historical disasters.
The Armenian manuscripts that have come down to us, are preserved for the most part (11 000 items) in the book depository of the Matenadaran. The miniature painting is perfectly represented by the manuscripts of its collection. Several other collections of Armenian manuscripts are spread all over the world. The Armenian Patriarchal depository of Jerusalem, those of Mkhitarist Congregation in Venice and Vienna are the largest ones. Other manuscripts are included in the collections of well-known museums and libraries worldwide.
Collection of the Matenadaran provides us all the necessary material to present the development of the Armenian manuscript illumination as a whole.

The Armenian miniature painting originates in the period marked by the invention of Armenian alphabet (405) and development of written literature. The oldest specimens date back to the 5th-7th centuries. Although in 1512 the first printed book was published in Armenian language, the tradition of manuscript writing persisted here until the 19th century. For about 500 years the art of manuscript writing was characterised by an incessant development in Armenia. Dispersed centres of manuscript production experienced in the course of time periods of flourishing and decline, the role of leader passed from one to another in different moments of history. But still, each and every artistic era had its own contribution to the history of manuscript illumination.

The first stages of the Armenian miniature painting development can be observed on the basis of separate fragments of manuscripts which have come down to us. Among them we find four original miniatures of the 6th -7th centuries preserved as separate folios sewed in the Etchmiadzin Gospel (Ms. N 2374). The excellent artistic execution of the miniatures witnesses the existence of already deep-rooted artistic traditions in early medieval Armenia. The miniatures are executed in festive, monumental style, the colour range is bright and saturated. The ornamented colonnades, following the principles of real religious architecture, as well as the postures and clothing of figures witness persistence of antic artistic traditions. Noteworthy is also their association to the contemporaneous monumental painting, particularly, the 7th century fresco samples preserved in the church of Lmpat.

In the 6th-7th centuries the artistic life was quite active in Armenia. It is testified not only by architectural monuments, their lavish decorations and pieces of miniature painting, but also by written sources. In this regard, dogmatic disputes engaging the question whether it is permitted or not to artistically represent God (so called Iconoclasm movement) are of great interest. Thus, 7th century author Vrtanes Kertogh intervene in his treatise called "About Iconoclasm" in defence of cult images, thus certifying the presence of advanced artistic tradition in early medieval Armenia.

Our idea about the miniature painting of the 10th - 11th centuries is more complete. For Armenia it was a period of political growth, when freed from the Arabic yoke, the country entered a new era of flourishing. Important growth was observed both in sciences and the development of art and literature.

The Matenadaran holds a considerable number of precious monuments of miniature painting created then. Regarding their general features and stylistic execution, the miniatures of that period can be classified into two groups. The miniatures of the first group stand out by richness of their ornamentation and brilliant artistic execution, being associated with royal scriptoria or large monastic centres. The benefactors of those manuscripts were, as a rule, representatives of upper social and ecclesiastical classes who could appeal to the professionalism of experienced miniaturists and provide them with expensive materials.

The Gospel of Etchmiadzin of 989 (Ms. N 2374), the Gospel of Moughni from the 11th century (Ms. N 7736), the Gospel of 1053 adorned by Hovhannes Sandghkavanetsi (Ms. N 3793) and others, are among the Matenadaran manuscripts of the above-mentioned group.

The miniatures of the Etchmiadzin Gospel with their rich, fresh and delicate colours catch our eye by elevated solemnity and eminent festivity of the entire set of ornamentation. The miniatures representing Christ, Apostles and Virgin Mary remind early specimens of fresco painting created in Christian East.

The colour range of the Gospel of Moughni is more sustained. That doesn't prevent us to say that we are in presence of another lavish piece of art that developed under the Bagratides Dynasty in the 11th century. The entire ornamentation of the Gospel testifies the sophisticated artistic sense of the miniaturist and that it was created for a fortunate client. The prevailing blue colour is supplemented by a sublime use of gold and silver. The narrative cycle occurring in this Gospel is one of the earliest ones in the history of the Armenian miniature painting.

Contrarily to richly ornamented manuscripts, in provincial scriptoria somewhat more modest manuscripts used to be produced and adorned artistically by the scribes themselves. Expensive materials, bright and saturated colours, abundant use of gold and silver, skilfully treated details are no more typical for this group of manuscripts. However, due to their simplicity and laconic means of expression, the miniatures of this group are noteworthy for their spontaneous character and faithfulness to more ancient artistic traditions. The Gospel of 1038 (Ms. N 6201), the "Gospel of Vehapar" of the 10th century (Ms. N 10780) and others represent this group.

Several other manuscripts of the Matenadaran, created in the provinces of Sebastia and the scriptoria of Meliteneh, can be stylistically related with the miniatures of the previous group. T. A. Izmailova states that the miniatures of this category are of exceptional interest for the study of early medieval iconography, since they have preserved the most archaic order within the narrative Gospel cycle.

The invading campaigns of Seljuk Turks became ravaging for the social stability of the country. Destroyed economy and mass migration of the population to other countries strongly confined the artistic life of Armenia. This is only natural that a relatively limited number of monuments have come down to us from that period. Even so, separate scriptoria continue their activity in different regions of the country, especially those in western provinces. The artistic output of these scriptoria is represented today by a small number of manuscripts that attract our attention by their original decoration (Ms. N° 2877, N° 6462).

A new growth of cultural life was observed at the end of the 12th - beginning of the 13th centuries, when Zakarian Armenian Dynasty reigned. The capital Ani went through a new era of flourishing. The impressive ruins of once sumptuous buildings of the city can be admired even nowadays, on the opposite side of Akhourian River, in proximity to the border of modern Republic of Armenia. Their architecture is not sufficiently studied. It is difficult to make a complete idea of miniature painting that developed in Ani, nor of the centres of manuscripts production, since only few and occasionally survived manuscripts related with the scriptoria of the ancient Armenian capital have come down to us. Margareh and Ignatios were two painters who worked in Ani. Margareh created the miniatures of the manuscript N 6288 entitled Gospel of Haghpat after the monastery where it was written. The original manuscript was reproduced in 1211 by order of rich citizen Sahak. Shortly after, delivered to Ani, it was enriched with miniatures. The painted folios belonging to the brush of Margareh are now among those examples that form a new trend in the Armenian miniature painting connected with the active development of urban culture. It is characterised by new tendencies to realistic treatment of scenes, real-life observations and enrichment with secular motifs and everyday elements. These features form part of general secularisation that penetrated the contemporary Armenian culture. In the margins of the Gospel of Haghpat one can see a folk-singer depicted with his instrument under a grenade tree, as well as numerous portraits of painter's contemporaries. Their conspicuously treated clothes are of great interest in the perspective of the traditional Armenian costumes study. The only narrative scene within the miniatures of the Gospel, that of "Entry into Jerusalem", is almost perceived as an everyday episode, where a crowd of citizens welcomes a precious guest. The atmosphere in these miniatures is thoroughly joyful, festive and kind-hearted.

The works of the second miniaturist, Ignatios, are of similar interest. They include ornamental decorations characterised by high artistic sense and masterful execution. At present, two manuscripts adorned by Ignatios are preserved at the Matenadaran. Especially noteworthy is the Gospel of 1232 (Ms. N 1519) having an unusual size (42x29). Executed in large majuscule style, it has lavish, classically completed title pages.
In the 30-40-ies of the 13th century a new disaster encountered the destiny of the Armenian people. The Mongolian invasion began leading to a new mass migration and a new transfer of manuscript centres. It is extremely difficult to determine today the location of scriptoria where manuscripts were produced, since their colophons rarely survived. The Gospel Targmatchats (Mat. N 2743) is among them. It dates back to 1232 and is decorated by master Grigor. Despite their strongly individual character, the 12 miniatures of the Gospel are associated with the art of Bardzr Hayq, as well as with fresco painting preserved in cave churches of Cappadocia immediately adjacent to Bardzr Hayq. The figures are remarkably expressive with their deep dark eyes shadowed by almost black circles. Their looks are full of sorrow, so that sometimes they seem even tragic. Both the faces and restricted postures of the figures, together with extremely saturated blue and red colours, emphasise the dramatic intensity of the depicted scenes. The miniaturist succeeded in creating a striking impression by means of few artistic devices. Dark and dense colours acquire unusual expressiveness through original dispersed use of red and rose flashes.

Two other manuscripts associated with the production of Bardzr Hayq are also of great interest: Gospel of 1201 from the collection of the Matenadaran (Ms. N 7729) and the Mush Homiliary, which is the largest Armenian manuscript (70,5x55,5). Within the artistic decoration of these manuscripts the prevailing motif is that of vegetal ornaments. They dominate the miniatures, serving as patterns for some marginal ornaments as well. Extreme versatility of forms characterises the ornamental motifs including original interlacing, palmettos, volutes, combination of both fantastic and real forms borrowed from flora and fauna. The decoration of this manuscript is a joint effort of three different masters. Unfortunately, the colophon preserved the name of only one of them, Stepanos, who executed partly the marginal ornamentation having rather linear character. The ornamental miniatures by the second unknown master stand out for their original style witnessing to painter's more passionate and expressive personality. Within manuscript's marginal space, the miniaturist has largely distributed diverse vegetal forms having interlaced with them both real and imaginative beast motifs. The linear plasticity is supplemented by use of rich and bright colours, thanks to which the marginal ornaments seem especially vivid. The painter prefers contrasts of colours: the orange is set off by dark browns, the blue by dense and velvety "lapis-lazuli". Few narrative miniatures belong to the brush of the third miniaturist of the Mush Homilies. Somewhat softened tones, expressive visages and postures form the distinctive features of that unknown artist's work. The marginal ornamentation being each time dissimilar, versatile, bright and delightful is the most impressive part of the manuscript's decoration. Although stylised, many subjects reproduce quite faithfully real plants, so that one can easily recognise the grenade, fig and almond trees, in addition to various flowers, such as liana, lotus, lily and others. Since many of these motifs can be found in ancient medical manuscripts, several scientists have supposed that the type of marginal ornaments found in the Homiliary of Mush and related manuscripts could originate from medical books.

The illuminated manuscripts of Bardzr Hayq strongly differ from each other by their style. This is but natural for the cultural life of the 13th-14th centuries, a period characterised by a considerable activation of public life, when entire stratums of society became involved in social movements. On the crossroads of principal commercial routes, the entire province was an important economic centre and meeting point for foreign merchants and Armenian migrants. The history of this region is rich and complex. This is only natural, that the art of this province is exceptionally varied too. Several illuminated manuscripts from the Matenadaran collection show relations with the art of the paleological Renaissance. This is especially true for the manuscripts written at the beginning of the 13th century (Ms. N 7630, 7599 and others). Their miniatures are significant for original sporadic compositions, colourful treatment of forms (despite more restricted means), as well as obvious polychrome execution.

The art of Bardzr Hayq was furthermore influenced by the tradition of miniature painting that developed in the Cilician Kingdom of Armenia, the best specimens of which are included in the collection of the Matenadaran.

The art of Cilician Armenia has exceedingly flourished during the 12th -13th centuries, having influenced the entire development of the Armenian national culture. After the fall of Bardzr Hayq under the yoke of Seljuk Turks, the population went anew into exile. Many settled down in Asia Minor, on the north-eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The Roubenides dynasty that became powerful here, shortly after founded the independent Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. Close contacts with important commercial centres, auspicious geographical location and relatively calm life conditions promoted the active development of art and culture. Several masterpieces of Cilician miniature painting are kept now at the Matenadaran, such as the works of Toros Roslin, Lectionary written by order of Cilician king Hetum II, Gospel written and decorated for Smbat the Constable, Gospel of Eight Artists, and the manuscripts of Sargis Pitsak. The miniatures of these manuscripts are not only among the best achievements of medieval Armenian painting, they are counted amongst masterpieces of world-art as well.

Wonderful artistic imagination of the Cilician miniaturists, sublime execution of images, harmony of linear and colouristic treatments continues to astonish the eye of a viewer even nowadays. The works of the Cilician masters became famous within other centres of manuscript production being used as precious artistic prototypes. They were reproduced several times, cultivating the style of young artists as well. Toros Roslin is the most prominent Cilician miniaturist. Two of his illuminated Gospels are kept now at the Matenadaran (Ms. N 10450, N 10675). Furthermore, Professor S. Der Nersessian discovered separate folios of a 13th century Gospel, sewed between the pages of another manuscript written in the 14th century in Vaspurakan. She supposed that the older folios belong to the magnificent brush of Toros Roslin.

The artistic heritage of Toros Roslin opens a new era in the history of the Armenian miniature painting. Being well acquainted with Byzantine and Roman art, he created spiritually powerful works that reflect the proficient union of both national and Byzantine artistic traditions. The human figures are full of life in his miniatures. The painter tried to represent them in different psychological situations: silent observation, meditation, sorrow, joy, active conversation and articulation. Spiritual beauty and profound mercy penetrate the faces. Artist's approach to book illumination is quite unconventional. His miniatures occupy sometimes the entire surface of manuscript page, at times only one part of it, in other cases they are found incorporated in the texts, being each time in perfect harmony with the ensemble of decoration.

Works of several Cilician artists who follow the principles of illumination and the original style of Toros Roslin marked all the 13th century. Many of them reached a real degree of perfection. The scenes of the narrative cycle are represented within complex and multifaceted compositions where the figures are given in intricate perspectives. The peaceful and delicate colouring of Toros Roslin's miniatures gives way to a general tension that is seen both in graphical and colouristic treatments. The folds of the clothes are shown in gentle rippling. The gold is richly used within the borderlines of the dresses. The art of gilding was quite complex. The Cilician miniaturists were especially skilful in using different gradations of gold, combining its voluminous surface with other colours of their bright and rich palette. The mentioned artistic methods contributed to extraordinary luxury and lavishness of the Cilician miniatures.

Cilician artists reached exceptional artistic degree in the field of decorative ornaments reflecting their inexhaustible fantasy. Skilfulness in creating diverse types of ornaments was joint with similar ability to conceive individual human characters. The Cilician painters represented their contemporaries too, for example, famous manuscript purchasers and representatives of royal families. The self-portraits are equally frequent. Ability to correctly represent human body and to give it a voluminous aspect characterises the works of Cilician masters. All observed tendencies permitted L.A. Dournovo to say that they "bear evidence to particular attention paid by the Cilician artists to the European Renaissance".

At the beginning of the 13th century certain decline and penchant to more conventional style are traced in the Cilician miniature painting. Sargis Pitsak was the most famous artist of that period. During his fruitful artistic life, the painter adorned more than 50 manuscripts. The linear treatment became predominant in his miniatures. The artist treated by his flexible contour line both the figures and the ornamental parts. The life-period of this remarkable artist was an era of artistic research and transformation which didn't come to end, since the development of the Cilician artistic life was interrupted. In 1375 the Cilician Armenian Kingdom fell under attacks of Egyptian Mamlouks. A new tremor encountered the Armenian population. Taking the way of new painful exile, people tried to save and carry away their cultural treasures, including illuminated manuscripts.

Despite monstrous new conditions under the foreign yoke, the Armenian culture continued its development in Armenia proper and out of its borders. This particular period was characterised by increased activities of medieval Armenian universities. At the end of the 13th century University of Gladzor became popular, having acquired the reputation of "Second Athens" among contemporaries. Many precious manuscripts were studied and copied within this university, in addition to new precious treatises concerning different fields of sciences that were created here. The centre of manuscript writing was of great importance too. Famous artist Momik was among the miniaturists of this school. He is known for his equal achievements in the art of sculpture and monumental architecture. Another prominent artist, Toros Taronatsi, was miniaturist, scribe and poet. Avag was scribe, miniaturist and bookbinder.

The school of miniature painting of Gladzor is known for characteristic fusion of artistic tradition of Armenia proper with that of the Cilician Kingdom. The local traditions were, however, dominating. On the folios of the illuminated manuscripts of Gladzor persist symbols and motifs coming from old pagan tradition: various totemic notions, personifications of natural phenomena, vestiges of mystical ceremonies and remnants of mythological themes. They are abundantly interpreted especially in the works of Toros Taronatsi. Exceeding love to fantastic ornamental motifs attracts our attention in the works of this artist. Within Canon Tables (xoran) and marginal ornaments one can find fantastic sirens (sometimes double-headed), personifications of good and evil, fighting snakes and dragons lacerating their victims. More often they are depicted defeated by courageous legendary soldiers sanctified by Christian dogma. Originating from an older cult and pagan beliefs, all these motifs were successfully adopted and reinterpreted in Christian times.

The artistic work of painter Avag is also related with the activities of Gladzor University. He was an itinerant artist who worked not only within the centre of Gladzor, but in Iran and Cilicia as well. Certain strong influences of the Cilician tradition are traced in the works of this artist, who spent a considerable part of his artistic life in Cilicia and illuminated a Gospel together with well-known miniaturist Sargis Pitsak (Ms. N° 7631). Among the manuscripts adorned by Avag, the manuscript of 1337 (Ms. N° 212) is especially distinctive for its opulent ornamentation and brilliant execution. The miniatures of Avag are fascinating thanks to the high level of technical execution, delicate and festive style and original colouristic palette supplemented by temperate use of gold.

In the 40-ies of the 14th century, the University of Gladzor ceased to exist, handing forward its rich artistic traditions to other monastic schools, such as Tatev, Metsop and others.

The University of Tatev got a particular importance when it was instructed by Grigor of Tatev, famous philosopher and painter. The Gospel of 1297 (Ms. N° 7482) kept at the Matenadaran has been enriched by Grigor of Tatev in 1378 by several narrative miniatures, portraits of evangelists and title pages. The most distinctive feature consists in skilful use of ornamental folk motifs. The background of his paintings is almost entirely covered by coarse ornaments in tender hues. Contrarily to the ornamental part, the figures are treated in succulent colour-range.

Wide use of ornamental decorations and similar technical treatment are characteristic for the miniatures of a Gospel illuminated by unknown artists at the beginning of the 15th century (Ms. N° 6305). Contrarily to the previous manuscript, where the ornamental parts serves only as a background for figurative scenes, here we are in presence of a real symphony of decorative forms characterised by extreme diversity of linear and colouristic treatment. The ornaments fill not only the entire surface of the backgrounds, but the architectural details and furnishings as well; the clothes are thoroughly covered by tiny floral patterns. The choice of various themes, expressiveness and emotional intensity of acting personages supplemented by tender colours, render the miniatures particularly luxurious. The artist pays a particular attention to the representation of holy soldiers deified by Christian Church. Each of them occupies a separate folio. The depiction of military saviours within the Gospel illumination is not occasional. They were popular within the sacred themes of medieval Christian art, and particularly that of Armenia. It is but natural for the representational art of a population that suffered through its history of numerous invading campaigns. People referred to these personages as to folk-protectors, representing them in visual arts and devoting them numerous folk poems.

In recent times, the scientist succeeded in specification and localisation of another distinctive school of miniature painting, that of Artsakh-Utik. The regions of Artsakh and Utik (north and north-eastern coast of Lake Sevan, corresponding to nowadays' region of Taush and the Republic of Nagorniy Karabakh) remained for a long time one of the most important political provinces of the country. Beginning from the 12th century a considerable growth of political and cultural life is observed in the province. Favourable situation was conditioned by a new necessity of national unification. After the liberation of the north-eastern provinces from Seljouk troops, the foundation of new monasteries and other religious and political institutions became possible thanks to perspicacious diplomatic policy of the Armenian governors. On the other hand, the existing monastic schools significantly extend their activities. Numerous illuminated manuscripts were produced in the centres of this province being stylistically related to the artistic traditions of Siunik and Ani. However, certain technical and iconographic features witness to the persistence of strong local traditions as well, and wide use of principles of folk-art. Serenity in representation of scenes and figures, plane treatment of volumes, inner tension and original colouristic treatment contribute to the style of miniatures created in Artsakh-Utik. The colour range is based on combination of red and violet hues providing the miniatures with special romantic character. Especially noteworthy are the manuscript decorated for the prince Vakhtang in 1212 (Ms. N° 378), the Gospel of 1224 written in Khorashat (Ms. N° 4823) and 13th century Bible (Ms. N° 155).

The manuscript production of Nakhijevan's scriptoria shows strong relations with the artistic traditions of Artsakh and Vaspurakan. The manuscripts of this group are characterised by archaistic iconographic variants, preference given to laconic compositions and gentle colours. The miniaturists of Nakhijevan used to place in the margins of manuscripts separate narrative scenes, sometimes even illustrations of fables, all bearing somewhat commonplace character. These miniatures successfully preserved local cultural features, which are authentic sources for the study of secular customs of that particular period.

If the relatively calm and favourable conditions in the north-eastern provinces of the country were due to the diplomatic policy of several prince houses, on the southwest there were other reasons for such advantageous situation. The activation of the cultural life was related here with considerable changes that took place in the field of social and economic dealings. The Mongolian Empire formed in occupied lands promoted the development of commercial contacts for its proper profit. The chief commercial routes run across southern provinces, animating the life in cities. Belonging formerly to the Vaspurakan Kingdom, monastic schools and scriptoria continued to function in the provinces of Nakhijevan even under the Mongol yoke. A considerable part of their artistic production has reached us.

The school of miniature painting of Vaspurakan is the largest one considering the number of illuminated manuscripts. About 1500 manuscripts created in Vaspurakan's cultural centres' scriptoria, have come down to us.

The artistic decoration of Vaspurakan miniatures has its strong characteristic features. It best preserved primitive local traditions. On the other hand, the popular artistic production acquired more significance and bigger ground. Thanks to that, the miniatures of Vaspurakan stand out by strong originality traced both in stylistic and technical execution, as well as innovative interpretation of scenes.

Within the northern centres (Archesh, Artske, Berkri), the first stage of Vaspurakan's school of miniature painting includes the period from the 70-s of the 13th century up to the first decade of the 14th century. The most famous artists who worked then are Simeon Artishetsi, Hovsian, Vardan, Melchisedec. Their works defined the original style of Vaspurakan's miniatures with certain decorativeness, plane volumes, subdued compositions, expressiveness of contour lines.

Beginning from the second half of the 14th century, the centres of middle and south provinces of Vaspurakan (Aghtamar, Vostan, Khlat, Khizan and others) extended their activities. The style of illuminated manuscripts began to show strong tendencies to conventionalism. Together with elements borrowed from folk-poetry, symbolism and dogmatism acquired big importance as well, thus defining the main iconographic features of this artistic school.

Yet, the original style of Vaspurakan's miniatures was definitely worked out only in the 14th-15th centuries. Compositions and figures are flat surfaced, vivid contour line remains the main artistic device. Miniaturists dispose freely of strictly contoured figures that they distribute on the entire surface of miniature page, ignoring the principles of spatial perspective. They form simple horizontal composition or plain figurative superposition within one scene.

Common iconographic principles of Vaspurakan miniatures originate in strong traditions of folk art, as well as popular mythological notions that do not contradict to the esthetical principles of Christian art. The main concern of artists was the simple reproduction of Gospel themes, uncomplicated narration and laconic revelation of the symbolic content within depicted scenes. Pagan motifs, mythological themes, personifications of dying and resurrecting gods are equally frequent within illuminated manuscripts of Vaspurakan. Among the most productive artists working in the scriptoria of Vaspurakan in the 14th-15th centuries especially noteworthy are Zacharia Akhtamartsi, Grigor, Nerses. Their works reflect decorativeness and conventional-symbolic principles of their own style, illustrating on the other hand the spontaneous character of popular art. Religious canonical themes are interpreted using simple and laconic compositions tending to emphasise the key meaning of represented scenes. Ornaments acquire equal significance in the miniatures of this artistic school.

The most productive artist working in the second half of the 15th century is Minas. His creative production marked a turning point in the history of Vaspurakan's school of miniature painting. Simplicity and spontaneity give way to complex compositions and sophisticated style of artistic execution. The works of 15th century artists show more professionalism, refined and clear iconography; colour-range becomes luxurious, it is supplemented by use of gold, uncommon for miniatures of the previous period. All these features joint with artistic traditions of earlier centuries became characteristic for the art of miniature painting that developed in Vaspurakan in the 16th-17th centuries too. The latter advanced within existing canonical schemes elaborated previously. Works of several artists have come down to us from that period. They demonstrate tendencies to emotional expressiveness and saturation with elements of every-day life providing the scenes with new vivacity and dynamism.

The growing cultural development that could result in transition to a new artistic era was, however, interrupted by new political disasters.

In the history of the Armenian miniature painting, pieces of art created within the Armenian communities, often far from the borders of Armenia proper, occupy another prominent position. Unfavourable conditions and repeated invading campaigns of aliens obliged the Armenian population to go into exile throughout its history. As a result, at some stage in history, Armenian communities of distant countries assumed even a leading role in the development of national culture. Developing in foreign environment under new conditions, the Armenian art was based on combination of national traditions and artistic features borrowed from cultural heritage of other people. Numerous illuminated manuscripts created in the Crimea have come down to us. This Armenian community subsisted here from the 13th to the 18th century. The representatives of Crimean diaspora made a considerable contribution to the development of their own national culture, as well as that of other people. As Armenians immigrated to the Crimea were from different cities and provinces of Armenia, it is not surprising that the features of various artistic schools and traditions of miniature painting are fused within the samples of Armenian art created here. Close ties with representatives of Greek and Italian diasporas in their turn contributed to the development of Armenian visual arts. After the fall of the Cilician Armenian Kingdom, when emigrated Armenians from Anatolia settled down for the most part in the Crimea, strong influences of the Cilician artistic tradition were observed in the art of the Armenian community, as reflected in the illuminated manuscripts.

From the outset, the miniature painting of the Crimea is characterised by certain fusion of styles. However, in the course of time some original features were worked out. The most original quality is combination of linear and tinted techniques. Miniatures occupying separate folios are treated in polychrome manner; they are saturated by use of softened colours. The prevailing combination is that of blue and violet with limited use of red and yellow. Ornaments are treated in linear style, using few colours and gentle hues. All these features are found in the works of Avetis, Kirakos, Araquel, Stepanos and others. In the miniatures of these artists the succulent painting techniques diversified with hues and the summarised forms are complemented by tiny treatment of details.

Several illuminated Armenian manuscripts written in The Crimea show influences from Byzantine manuscripts of paleological Renaissance. The manuscripts N° 7664, N° 7647 of the Matenadaran, Gospel N° 242 of the Armenian library of Vienna are among them. Their miniatures catch the eye by wide manner of stylistic execution, effort to show volumes with the help of varied colours and by dynamism of acting figures. Mild, luminous colours, oval refined faces seem little uncommon comparing with other pieces of Armenian miniature painting. Two other illuminated Gospels from the collection of the Matenadaran belong to this stylistic circle. Original fusion of paleological and Cilician styles characterises the miniatures of this group.

Beginning from the end of the 14th century the Armenian art of Crimea was penetrated by spirit of Italian art. Well-known artist Hovhannes, grand-son of scribe Natera, created miniatures where volumes are shown using the combination of light and shadow instead of colours, more usual for the works of medieval art. This innovative feature stands out of the canonical artistic schemes, bearing witness to well acquaintance of the Armenian artist of the 14th century with contemporary works of Italian art.

Numerous manuscripts illuminated in Italian cities reached us as well. Armenians settled down in Italy as early as in the 12th-13th centuries as a result of close commercial ties between the Cilician Kingdom and Italian merchant centres. Newly move abroad, Armenians began to construct churches, found schools and scriptoria. Collection of the Matenadaran includes several Armenian illuminated manuscripts written in these centres. Created in different Italian cities between the 13th- 15th centuries, the illuminated Armenian manuscripts differ stylistically. Especially noteworthy is the Bible N° 2705 preserved at the Matenadaran. The illumination of this manuscript began in Bologna at the end of the 13th century and was accomplished in 1368 in the Crimea. The earlier miniatures catch the eye by high artistic taste and refinement, elegant and saturated colour-range, skilful delineation and masterful artistic layout. Under influences from western European art the narrative cycle is supplemented by new themes, such as the Revelation.

Original artistic principles are applied to the miniatures of another manuscript copied in Perugia by scribe Jeremiah at the beginning of the 14th century (Ms. N° 7628). The style of this artist (probably the scribe himself) was strongly influenced by works of contemporary Italian masters.

The Armenian painters were more and more inspired by Italian art experiencing an important growth then. In spite of this, they remained faithful to ancient national traditions as to the ornamental parts of illuminated manuscripts.

The Armenian community of Iran counted thousands of Armenians too. From early centuries especially interesting are miniatures created within monastery Avagr, where two famous artists worked. Above-mentioned Avag is one of them. As to the second artist, Mkhitar Anetsi, certain influences from Iranian art characterise his miniatures, as reflected both in depicted human types and in the ornamental decoration.

The art of the Armenian community of Iran especially flourished in the 17th century. Having occupied at the beginning of the century the north-eastern provinces of Armenia, Persian Shah Abas deported their population towards Iran. Here, in proximity of Isphahan, Armenians established the town of New Julfa that assumed shortly after significant role in the economic life of Iran, being involved in global commercial dealings. The situation became advantageous for intensification of urban life and development of arts.

The 17th century was marked by a new activation of artistic life not only within the Armenian Diaspora of New Julfa, but also that of other countries and in Armenia itself. The reason for such conspicuous situation was relatively peaceful relationships established between Iran and Turkey.

Three major tendencies can be observed in the Armenian manuscript art of the 17th century. The first trend is represented by numerous works created in scriptoria of central provinces, being associated with archaic artistic traditions. Restitution of ancient popular notions distinguishes their iconography. Motifs from ancient folk epos get new significance, borrowing several elements from apocryphal literature too. Even though somewhat primitive interpretation of scenes can be seen, certain professionalism of execution characterises these miniatures. The art of New Julfa is based on strong connection with the artistic tradition of Vaspurakan. However, several artists representing this trend create works having original style. This is particularly characteristic of miniatures created by Hakob Jughayetsi whose activities are related with scriptoria of New Julfa, and those of Arakel Geghametsi working in the province of Karin. Within their works, the Armenian miniature painting lives through its last period of flourishing.

The second artistic trend bears influences of classical Cilician models. Seeking to create richly decorated, luxurious manuscript volumes, the Crimean artists searched after original Cilician manuscripts and applied all their capacity to reproduce accurately the Cilician masterpieces. One of the masters, whose miniatures are closely tied with the Cilician tradition, is Nikoghayos Tsaghkogh who lived in Kafa (now Theodosia) in the 17th century. He successfully copied such famous Cilician manuscripts as the Gospel of Eight Artists (Ms. N° 7651), Gospel of Constable Smbat (Ms. N° 7644) and the Cilician Gospel N° 2629. Using these magnificent prototypes, the artist cultivated his own style trying to reach the professionalism of the Cilician masters. Though, like any other copy of original, the works of Nikoghayos are somewhat ungainly comparing with the prototypes.

The Armenian miniature painting of the 17th century, especially that of diaspora, shows strong influences from Western European style too. This is particularly obvious regarding miniatures created in Constantinople, Lvov, New Julfa and the Crimea. The artistic decoration within manuscripts created in these centres shows inspiration from both Latin illuminated books and earliest printed volumes. The Gospel of 1619 written in Lvov ( Ms. N° 351) and having luxurious miniatures, is worth mentioning. Though strong influences from contemporary European art observed within the narrative cycle, ornamental parts remain faithful to the traditional style of medieval Armenian miniature painting.

With the invention of printing technologies, new method of illustration was introduced, that of engraving. Miniature and fresco arts became replaced with easel painting of new era.

The Armenian miniature painting is of great value. Being the pride of the Armenian national culture, it occupies a prominent position also in the treasury of world art.