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ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Athos Holy Mount

Byzantine Minor Arts
9.68 Book cover
early 18th c.
Iviron Monastery
Silver gilt, enamel and stones
36.5 x 26 cm
N. Glycis Editions, Venice 1671


The Original New Testament

Each of the two panels of this Gospel book cover is revetted by a silver sheet divided into compartments of varying size, symmetrically arranged; these are bordered by narrow strips of deep blue or green enamel, decorated with filigree work in floral motifs and ornamented with coloured stones in round settings. Engraved on the rough ground of these compartments are scenes from the Dodekaorton, each with their identifying inscriptions. Displayed on the centre of the front cover is the Crucifixion, the Presentation in the Temple and the Nativity above, the symbols of the Evangelists Matthew and John to the right and left, the Annunciation (in two parts) beneath them, the Baptism and the Raising of Lazarus at the bottom. Occupying the same respective positions on the back cover are depicted the Anastasis, the Entry into Jerusalem, the symbols of the Evangelists Luke and Mark, the Presentation of the Virgin - the only scene that does not belong to the Dodekaorton, here replacing the Pentecost -, the Ascension, and the Koimesis. The identifying inscriptions are repeated in twisted wire on the enamel borders. Filigree scrolls and enamel cover the spine.

Borders of similar style framing scenes arranged in the same way around a central, focal representation are found on three book covers dating from between 1701 and 1743, two of which, belonging to the Backovo monastery, are ascribed to workshops in Philippopolis (Drumev 1976, pp. 97-8, figs. 32, 90-1). The combination of filigree work and silver sheet, either cast or engraved or sculpted, was common in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the workshops of what is now Bulgaria. Also typical of the work produced in this area are the loose design, often without details, the rough ground, the iconography and the execution of the filigree decoration. To the same provenance also point other details of workmanship of the Iviron book cover, such as the filigree scrolls and the mounting of the coloured stones. These features are typical not only of the work produced in Philippopolis and in other workshops in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, but also of earlier pieces attributed to the workshops of Ciprovtsi, a famous gold- and silver-working centre whose craftsmen scattered to other parts of Bulgaria and the surrounding region after the city was destroyed by Ottoman troops in 1688 (Drumev 1976, figs. 119-20, 258, 274. Iconomaki-Papadopoulos 1990, fig. 24. Sotirov 1984, figs. 8-9, 25, 39-46, 62-3). The Iviron book cover was most probably created in this general area, and it may be associated with the Rozinou Monastery, a metochi of Iviron near Melenikon.

Bibliography: Unpublished.

Y. I.-P.
Index of exhibits of Monastery of Iviron
18th century

The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I

Icon of the Mother of God and New Testament Reader Promote Greek Learning
Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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