Folio of a Tetravengelion. Twelve busts of Apostles

The folio comes from Tetravangelion no. 8 in the Dionysiou monastery on Mount Athos. The work of a Constantinopolitan scriptorium, it bears the date 1133. This particular folio was used as frontispiece of the Acts of the Apostles.

Four vertical and five horizontal bands define twelve rectangular panels with gold ground, in four registers. The bands are bright red and the median line of each is decorated with acanthus leaves. Painted inside circular medallions incised on the gold ground are the busts of Seven Apostles, the Four Evangelists and the Apostle Paul (who is not included among the Twelve). Because the folio was the frontispiece of the Acts of the Apostles, the bust of Luke, the author, is in a prominent position in the top register, above the busts of Peter and Paul. All the figures are depicted in three-quarter pose; those in the column on the viewer’s left face right, those in the central and right columns face left. The Apostles bless with the right hand – in variations of the gesture, to avoid monotony – and hold a closed scroll in the left. The Four Evangelists and Paul hold an open codex with lavish binding.

The noble facial expressions and the refined workmanship on the figures recall classicistic works of the Macedonian Renaissance. The same classicistic trend can be detected in the acanthus leaves ornamenting the separating bands.

As is well known, the egg tempera use for painting manuscript miniatures was made only with egg white.

Skampavias K. 2007. Catalogue entry no, 101, in Skampavias K.—Chatzidakis N. (eds), Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos Museum.Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art, Athens, 108-109.