This leather-bound manuscript is a prayer book written in Gə’ez, the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Its 144 folios features three distinct kinds of ornaments: a single full-page illumination; interlaced borders (haräg); and textual ornament, including punctuation marks and headers. The full-page illumination on folio 1v may have been added to the book at a later date, a suggestion supported by the presence of writing in a hand different from that used in the rest of the book on its recto side and the partial nature of the image. Painted in red and ochre with a black outline, the illumination depicts a boy carrying a piece of bamboo and a whip. The scalloped waves of his hair are outlined and encircled by a halo composed of radiating parallel black lines. His face and figure are well-modeled with gradient colored shading that contrasts with the opaque lines of colors that form the folds of his shorts and the red wrapper tossed over his left shoulder. The tail of the wrapper and the left leg, bare toes barely grazing the invisible ground, extend towards the left side of the page, giving a sense of forward motion. The whip held in his extended right arm is cut off at the edge, suggesting that it once continued across a larger piece of parchment. Jacques Mercier has interpreted this figure as David, from the Old Testament story of David and Goliath (Object File, 2005). However, as the illumination lacks an accompanying written caption typical of Ethiopian painting, the identification remains open to other possibilities.


This image is in the public domain.
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