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Ethiopia, Africa




Ink and paint on parchment


4 1/16 ✕ 5 1/8 in. (10.3 ✕ 13.0 cm)

Credit Line

Bequest of David P. Harris ('46), 2020

Accession Number



Purchased by David P. Harris from Constantine Z. Panayotidis (Antiques by Constantine Ltd.) in London on October 21, 1975.


There is some flaking on both sides; a tear near the upper center has been stitched and painted over.


Brad Hostetler, and Lynn Jones, eds., Ethiopian Objects in the Blick-Harris Study Collection: Art, Context, and the Persistence of Form, Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture 8, no. 1 (Spring 2022): pp. 5–25, 41–51, 165–76, 187–88, cat. 32.


This parchment leaf features full-page framed miniatures on both sides. On one side is a depiction of the Dormition of the Virgin, known in the western tradition as the Assumption. Her body lies horizontally in the lower half of the miniature. On the left, a group of male mourners gather around her, while on the right Christ holds her infant-like soul.

The scene on the other side of the leaf seemingly presents two episodes from the life of the Virgin. To the left, on the red background, Mary spins thread, an iconography associated with the Annunciation. To the right, on the green background, is the archangel Phanuel (Fanuʾel), identified by a naming inscription, holding a paten and chalice. This iconography is associated with the Presentation of the Virgin to the Temple. The Annunciation and the Presentation are depicted on facing folios in an Ethiopian manuscript now at the British Library (Or 481, ff. 99v and 100r). Our miniature seemingly conflates these two events, compressing important moments in the life of the Virgin to fit the format of the sənsul of which this leaf was once a part, and evoking both for the viewer.

The color palette of red, green, and brown is similar to that of the sənsul (2020.189.1) and the other parchment leaf (2020.189.3). The backgrounds of both miniatures on this leaf consist of a field of two colors; on the side with the Dormition, the left background is green and the right is a bright red. On the other side these colors are reversed, and the green is lighter. In the scene of the Dormition, the figures are outlined in black and their skin tone is provided by the color of the parchment. In the scene of the Annunciation/Presentation, the skin tone of the figures is a rich brown.

This leaf originally belonged to a larger manuscript and was, at some point, disarticulated. The edges of the parchment curl in opposite directions, providing evidence that it was cut out of an accordion-folded sənsul.

Caitlin Mims, in Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture 8, no. 1 (Spring 2022): 187.

2020.189.2.pdf (911 kB)
Purchase Receipt and Supporting Documents

2020.189.2-back.jpg (523 kB)


sensul, ge'ez