Manuscript Illumination with the Evangelist Luke

Date: late 13th–early 14th century

Culture: Byzantine

Medium: Tempera and gold on parchment

Dimensions: 5 13/16 x 4 1/16 in. (14.7 x 10.3 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: Purchase, The Jaharis Family Foundation Inc. Gift, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.633


On a single page from a gospel book, the illumination shows the evangelist Luke seated on a backless chair, reaching with his left arm toward the open book on a pedestal before him. He wears a loose-fitting blue tunic and white himation, and sandals on his feet. He holds a quill pen in his right hand as he pauses to contemplate the text. His sandaled feet rest on a footstool, next to a small book cabinet that extends beyond the border of the illumination. Careful study of the cabinet reveals the artist's attention to detail, for there neatly arranged are all of Luke's writing implements, including his inkwell and a knife for sharpening his quills. The sparse furnishings in the scene—pedestal, chair, footstool, and cabinet—are all carefully painted in tan and oak shades with white highlighting and texturing. A gold ground provides the only backdrop for the seated figure, framed by a simple ochre and red border. The short inscription at the top is the Greek o hag[ios] Loukas (Saint Luke). The other side of the leaf was left blank. This was often the case in the Late Byzantine period, when it was common practice to execute the illuminations for a codex separately and tip them into the pages of text afterward. The blank side is thus the leaf's recto, so that the illumination could face the opening text of Luke's gospel.