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Opening of Gospel of Matthew

ca. 1063
29.6 cm x 22.5 cm (11 5/8 in. x 8 7/8 in.)
tempera, gold leaf and ink on vellum

Not on view


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Dumbarton Oaks owns one other leaf from this manuscript, the Portrait of the Evangelist Mark (BZ.1979.31.1). We know more about the origins of this lectionary in the eleventh century than we do about its eventual dispersal in the twentieth. A dedicatory page indicates that the Empress Katherine Komnena, widow of Isaac I Komnenos, donated the book in 1063 to the Holy Trinity Monastery on the island of Chalki, near Constantinople in the Sea of Marmara. Katherine had been born a Bulgarian noblewoman, had survived capture by Basil II the “Bulgar-Slayer,” had married into Byzantine nobility, and eventually rose with her husband to imperial status. She was furious when, only two years later, Isaac, beset by enemies and illness, announced his intention to abdicate and enter a monastery. She followed suit, entering the Myrelaion Convent and taking the name “Xene.” Shortly before she died there, she sent the lectionary to the Holy Trinity Monastery in exchange for future prayers for her soul.
The text block is decorated with two additions, both quite common in Byzantine manuscript illumination, a pi-shaped headband with vegetal motifs, and a decorated initial. In this case, two great branches curl around a figure of Matthew himself, who is raising his right arm toward the beginning of the text. The branches, together with Matthew’s arm form an epsilon, the first letter of Eipen ho Kurios…; The Lord said…. This phrase is the natural introduction to Gospel readings, so the historiated epsilon appears over and over again in Lectionary manuscripts. Here, Matthew, raising his hand in a gesture of speech, would have formed a fitting counterpart to his portrait on the facing page, in which he is seated at his desk, writing his Gospel. (That folio is preserved in the Cleveland Museum of Art, acc. No. 42.1512.)
S. Zwirn

Ch. Diehl, "L'évangéliare de l'impêratrice Catherine Comnène," Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (Paris, 1922), 243-48 (in dossier).

Idem, "Monuments byzantins inédits du onzième siècle," Art Studies, V (1927), 9, figs. 3-7.

Exposition international d'art byzantin, Musee des arts decoratifs (Paris, 1931), no. 653.

K. W. Clark, A Descriptive Catalogue of Greek and New Testament Manuscripts in America (Chicago, 1937), 122, note 1.

Byzantine Art and European Art (Athens, 1964), no. 309.

Illuminated Greek Manuscripts in American Private Collections, ed. G. Vikan (Princeton, 1973), no. 13, fig. 23.

R. Roozemond, Ikonen in Reliëf, De Wijenburgh (Echteld, 1978).

G. Vikan, Gifts from the Byzantine Court (Washington, DC, 1980), passim.

N. Kravus-Hoffmann, "Greek Manuscripts at Dumbarton Oaks: Codicological and Paleographic Description and Analysis," DOP 50 (1996), 306-07, pls. 7-8.

See also R. Janin, "Les églises et les monastères des grands centres byzantins," Paris, 1975 (copy in dossier).

Exhibition History
Paris, "Exposition international d'art byzantin," Musee des arts decoratifs, 1931.

Athens, "Byzantine Art an European Art," 1964.

Washington, DC, Dumbarton Oaks, "Gifts from the Byzantine Court," Feb. 6 - June 1, 1980.

Acquisition History
Given by the Empress Katherine Komnena to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Chalki in 1063;

Monastery of the Holy Trinity, Chalki, until the 16th century;

Given by Constantine Voevode Moupouzes to the Monastery of the Kamariotissa, Chalki, 1806;

Monastery of the Kamariotissa, Chalki, 1806-ca. 1920;

Istanbul, Library of the Phanar School by 1922;

Paris, Guerson Collection by 1931;

Purchased from Robert Roozemond, De Wijenburgh, (dealers) Netherlands, by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., 1979;

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