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31 Mar 2017 - 11 Jun 2017

The University Museum and Art Gallery (UMAG) of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) is delighted to organise a second exhibition with the McCarthy Collection from March 31 to June 11, 2017. Illustrious Illuminations II: Armenian and Georgian Manuscripts from the Eleventh to the Eighteenth Century presents, for the first time in Hong Kong, an exquisite selection of bound volumes, prayer scrolls and illuminated leaves illustrating the Christian Gospel from the Eastern Mediterranean.

Armenian illustrated manuscripts are some of the most lavishly decorated codices of the Christian churches from the Middle East. The Gospels are paramount among these, primarily because of the Armenian community’s respect for the sacred texts, revering them in the same way that Greek and Russian Christians regard holy icons. Such texts were carried into war by Armenian rulers and individual copies of the Gospels were often given sacred names and believed to hold miraculous powers.

Few Armenian manuscripts predate the Middle Ages. Individual examples of manuscripts from the seventh century are among the earliest known. Since the eighth century, Arab domination within Armenia largely suppressed Christian artistic expression, and no work is known prior to the end of the Caliphate in the mid-ninth century. Although a few manuscripts survive from the later ninth and tenth centuries, extant Armenian illustrated manuscripts are not common until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Examples from these early periods begin the exhibition’s chronological display, introducing the tradition of teaching the Gospel through both word and image. The show is then complemented by a set of Georgian Gospel leaves illustrating the Evangelists.

We are grateful to Robert McCarthy for his generosity in sharing these many fine works with the general public. This exhibition will be a worthy continuation of the first display of Western manuscripts from the McCarthy Collection at UMAG in 2015.

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