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The illustrations of the Arabic Gospels of Infancy (Firenze, Biblioteca Laurenziana cod.Orientale 387)

Massimo Bernabò, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Italy, Summer Fellow 2012

Cod. or. 387 in the Laurentian Library is a pocket-size apocryphal gospel of the Infancy of Jesus. A colophon states that the manuscript was written in Mardin, Mesopotamia, A.D. 1299. It contains about fifty drawings, illustrating the story of the miracles of Jesus’s swaddling paddles and the water in which he was bathed by his mother, which healed a crowd of people. As an appendix, the manuscript contains excerpta from the text and drawings of the canonical gospels which complete the narrative up to the resurrection, as well as a chapter and illustrations from the Gospel of Nicodemus. The drawings remained unfinished: only a few areas of them were painted. The manuscript is an example of the use of Islamic art by the Christians. Parallels are found in scenes with Christian subjects in metalwork from the same period and area. A complete description of the drawings, and comparisons in contemporary Islamic art object and Syriac lectionaries have been carried out thanks to the Dumbarton Oaks fellowship. A manuscript on the topic is due for publication by 31 December 2012.

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