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Getty displays Medieval illuminated pages after legal battle finally ends

Manuscripts are part of a table of contents from the Zeyt’un Gospels, a Medieval Armenian bible

by Jori Finkel  |  26 January 2016
T'oros Roslin (Armenian, active 1256-68), Canon Table Page, 1256. Tempera and gold paint on parchment.
T'oros Roslin (Armenian, active 1256-68), Canon Table Page, 1256. Tempera and gold paint on parchment.
Visitors to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles can see for themselves what a legal battle that raged for five years was all about. Two brilliantly illuminated pages—part of a table of contents from the Zeyt’un Gospels, a Medieval Armenian bible—are on show as part of the exhibition Traversing the Globe through Illuminated Manuscripts (until 26 June).

The Getty bought eight of these contents pages, known as a canon table, for $950,000 from an Armenian-American family in 1994. But their proper ownership has been in question since 2010, when a US branch of the Armenian Apostolic Church brought a lawsuit against the Getty, maintaining that the pages had been looted during the Armenian genocide of the First World War.

The lawsuit was finally settled last year, when the Getty acknowledged the church as the rightful owner and agreed to pay undisclosed lawyers’ fees. The church agreed to donate the pages to the museum.

The pages are by the 13th-century Armenian master Toros Roslin, who worked in tempera and gold paint on parchment. A page on show at the Getty for the first time in more than a decade reveals how he blends natural specimens like roosters and twisting pomegranate trees with architectural forms by using a vivid gold, red, green, and blue palette for both.

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