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Book illustration is one of the brunches of popular applied art. The word was formed from Latin word "Minium - apricot pigment, red paint, by the help of which people illustrate handwritten manuscripts. It's an art of creating small pictures: miniatures. Before the invention of printing all the books were copied and illustrated by hand.
At the turn of the forth century Christianity was adopted in Armenia as the country's state religion. Monasteries were set up . They ran schools which began training clergymen for the newly - founded Christian church. Teaching in those schools were conducted in Greek and Syriac.
In 406 Mesrop Mashtots invented Armenian alphabet and laid solid foundation for Armenian bibliography. Together with his students he translated the Old and New Testaments, treatises on theology and religious service and numerous historiographer and philosophical writings. The fifth century witnessed a genuine rise of Armenian Literature other provinces of culture. Book illustration was one of them. The big part of 25 thousand manuscripts from different centuries were illuminated.

The illuminations in the manuscripts preserve traditional presentation, as a rute, i.e. they are pictured on the initial page , even before the Canon Table designs thereby making a kind of pictorial prologue of the book. The topics vary on a wide range: from biblical subjects to scenes of workaday life, from religious mystics to the Christianized refraction of pagan pantheism. The illuminators achieved such diversity at times reproducing Old Testament stories such as "The Creation of the World", "The Fall of Adam and Eve", "The Sacrifice of Abraham" and "Abraham Entertaining the Angels", "The meeting of Eve and Joseph", etc. Sometimes they supplemented with subjects from local predilections highlighting certain aspects of social- political intentions: the massacre of the children of Bethlehem, a wide range of Jesus' miracles, the scene of Pilate's doom and so on. The inclusion of themes from the Old Testament often harmonized with scenes from the New Testament in an allegorical- mystical form.
In headlines and margins different floral motives ( animal pictures and floral elements) are implemented.
Some valuable portraits in Armenian manuscripts testify the development of portrait painting in Armenia in VIII -XIII centuries. Armenians were used to paint portraits of the kings, bishops, constructors of churches, painters, heroes, generals, etc.
Different centers of scripture and miniature ran in different places and centuries. Ani, Gladzor, Tatev, Nakhijevan, Artsakh, Vaspourakan are the centers of illuminations of the manuscripts which had its own style.
From the thirteenth century onward the art of of scripture and miniature was given a new impetus in Armenia. It is fostered through the mounting popular aspiration for national self - defense and the preservation of multi-centennial cultural traditions; the other factor that contributes to this trend was the progress in the countries economy. The fudal and political fragmentation of the country hindered the progress of miniature on a nationwide scale and reduced it to local significance.
Now we can enjoy the works of outstanding illuminators, like Toros Roslin, Grigor, Sargis Pitsak, Toros Taronetsi, Momik, Hagop Jughayetsi, etc.

 

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