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

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

Cod. Orientale 387 in the Biblioteca Laurenziana, is a pocket-size apocryphal gospel of the Infancy of Jesus. A colophon states that the manuscript was written in Mardin, Mesopotamia, in 1299. 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. 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. During my summer fellowship, I made a complete description of the drawings and compared the manuscript with contemporary Islamic art object and Syriac lectionaries.

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