June 10, 2006
Anyone got a spare $63,000?
Christie's is planning to auction off four beautiful 17th century Ethiopian manuscripts on June 27-28 in New York. Here are some more details on Lots 82-85.
There is lots of information on the items themselves. It is nice to know, for example, that the main piece, the 'HYMNS ACCOMPANYING THE MIRACLES OF MARY AND OTHER MARIAN TEXTS, in Ge'ez, DECORATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM' (see pic), is:
a particularly fine example of the style of manuscript painting of the First Gondarene Period, which flourished from c.1660 to the beginning of the 18th century. It is typified by the placing of figures, usually finely drawn and coloured (predominantly in red, yellow and some green) against an uncoloured, neutral background. Painters from Gondar itself also worked at monasteries in the adjacent countryside, including at Gorgora on the shore of Lake Tana.
This is a rare example of a manuscript which contains paintings accompanying the hymns, rather than the Miracles of Mary themselves.
What these catalogue entries are always a little hazy about is how these manuscripts got out of Ethiopia and on to an New York auction stand in the first place. The export of cultural treasures is now strictly banned. Before the ban, manuscripts like these were generally 'acquired' by a string of light-fingered explorers and adventurers.
Now, the only time Ethiopians themselves get a chance to have a look at these treasures is when they briefly pass through the web pages of auctioneers like Christie's. I've often thought it would be a good idea to keep track of these websites, grab the photos and descriptions as they appear, and build up a kind of virtual museum of missing manuscripts.
If anyone would like to help build up an actual collection of missing manuscripts back in Ethiopia, the Institute of Ethiopian Studies would be welcome any donations.
Posted by aheavens at June 10, 2006 7:19 AM