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Manuscript Leaf, St. John and Prochoros

Late Byzantine
13th century
27.2 cm x 20.8 cm (10 11/16 in. x 8 3/16 in.)

On view


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The bulk of this Gospel book is preserved in the Harvard Library (cod. TYP 215H), including a portrait of the Evangelist Mark, depicted as the Gospel writers almost always were: inside his study before his writing desk. On the Dumbarton Oaks leaf, the artist instead depicts John in a mountainous landscape, dictating his Gospel to his secretary Prochoros. This must be the island of Patmos in the Eastern Aegean, where, according to tradition, John was exiled by the Emperor Domitian, a fervent persecutor of the Christians. Emerging from the top of the mountain, there is a furry animal with short ears, holding a codex. Though it may appear more like a bear than a lion, it almost certainly is a lion. The prophetic book of Ezechiel begins with a vision of four beasts; a man, a lion, a calf, and an eagle (Ez. 1:1-21), which were linked early on to the four Evangelists. In the eastern church, the links vary a little, but the most common pairings associated Matthew with the man, Mark with the eagle, Luke with the calf, and John with the lion. Given that there is an eagle on Mark’s bookstand in the parent manuscript, this is clearly the lion of John. The codex in the lion’s paws suggests that he is playing a part in the process of divine inspiration, almost like a muse, while John in his turn dictates the divine words to Prochoros.

- S. Zwirn

Harvard College Library, Illuminated & Calligraphic Manuscripts, exhibition catalogue, Fogg Art Museum & Houghton Library, February 14-April 1, 1955, (Cambridge, Mass., 1955), no. 6, pl. 2.

M. C. Ross, Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, vol. 1, Metalwork, Ceramics, Glass, Glyptics, Painting (Washington, D.C., 1962), 107-109, no. 128, pl. 65.

C. U. Faye and W. H. Bond, Supplement to the Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada (New York, 1962), 271.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 106, no. 359, pl. 359.

Illuminated Greek Manuscripts from American Collections: an Exhibition in Honor of Kurt Weitzmann, ed. G. Vikan, exhibition catalogue, Art Museum Princeton University, April 14-May 20, 1973, (Princeton, 1973), no. 39.

G. Vikan, Gifts from the Byzantine Court, exhibition catalogue, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Feb. 6-June 1, 1980, [Publications - Dumbarton Oaks, Byzantine Collection; 1 (Washington, D.C., 1980), 9-12, fig. p. 7.

Exhibition History
Cambridge, Mass., Fogg Art Museum and Houghton Library, "Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts," Feb.14 - April 1, 1955.

Princeton, Princeton University Art Museum, "Illuminated Greek Manuscripts from American Collections; An Exhibition in Honor of Kurt Weitzmann," Apr. 14-May 20, 1973.

Acquisition History
Purchased from H. P. Kraus, New York, by Philip Hofer, Cambridge, Mass., 1954;

Collection of Philip Hofer, Cambridge, Mass., 1954-1958;

Gift of Mr. Philip Hofer to Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., 1958;

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.