Images of the Gospels, through Ethiopian and European Eyes - the 'Evangelium arabicum' as vorlage for an Ethiopian tetraevangelium. An example of the new Gondärine style of painting in Ethiopia in the 17th century - Dr Dorothea McEwan (Honorary Fellow, Warburg Institute, and Associate Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences).

A John Coffin Memorial Lecture.

Illuminated gospel books such as Or 510 in the British Library, 1664-65, and the Märtula Maryam gospel book, kept in Märtula Maryam, also called Ǝnnäbǝse, in Gojjam, Central Ethiopia, c. 1650s, are examples of precious gospel books of the middle of the 17th century. The gospel stories are richly illuminated, the paintings skilfully executed by more than one painter, the colours still vivid and well-preserved. 

Dr McEwan chose the Märtula Maryam tetraevangelium to explain its European source or vorlage, the so-called Evangelium arabicum of 1591. What makes the illuminations in the Ethiopian manuscript book so extraordinarily important is the adoption of painting methods such as the nascent use of perspective and the borrowing of visual props from its European vorlage. Dr McEwan’s presentation into the origins and sources of the Ethiopian images is centred on parallel examples from the Ethiopian and European books. She shows pictures selected from the gospel according to Luke and explains their adaptation to the Ethiopian painting milieu, throwing up idiosyncrasies in the Ethiopian illuminations, triggered by transposing European images in to the Ethiopian milieu.

This lecture follows a paper by Dr McEwan at the British Library in May 2019, an online international conference on Ethiopian art and architecture, hosted by Complutense University, Madrid, in November 2021, and an online seminar on recent studies in Ethiopian art and architecture held at the Warburg Institute in May 2022.

This lecture took place on 23 May 2023.