Prayer Book: Arganona Weddase (The Harp of Praise), late 17th century
Ethiopia, Lasta region
Hide, pigment, wood, fiber; H. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm), W. 6 1/8 in. (15.5 cm)
Louis V. Bell Fund, 2006 (2006.99)
The Harp of Praise is a Marian text of prayers arranged according to the days of the week. In such works, passages of visual elaboration serve to amplify the power of spoken prayers. The subject matter of the four illuminations that enhance this 148-page manuscript range from the introductory image of the author Abba Giyorgis in an attitude of prayer to purely graphic interludes of geometric ornament. It has been proposed that a notation of a hornbill that appears on folio 123 of this work and a number of stylistically related ones, including a manuscript of the Four Gospels now in the British Library, are the signature of the scribe Baselyos. He is identified with elegant refined lines and radically pared-down abstraction.