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Ethiopia, Africa




Ink on parchment, possibly goat skin


6 15/16 ✕ 4 3/41/32 in. (17.6 ✕ 12.1 ✕ 0.08 cm)

Credit Line

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

Accession Number



Purchased by David P. Harris. Date, receipt, and supplemental documents are unavailable.


Worn with evidence of handling and bending at the foot of the lion. There is a worm hole in the upper right corner and a nail hole in the upper left. The edges are uneven, and a piece appears to have been cut from the upper left side.

Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

Abunä Samuʾel [of Waldəbba]


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. 206–20, 221–23, cat. 36.


This parchment is thick and stiff. The edges are uneven, suggesting that this fragment was cut from a larger piece. It contains a depiction of Abba Samuʾel of Waldəbba, a fifteenth-century Ethiopian monk. Abba Samuʾel is shown within an orange-red frame on a light-orange background. He sits on the back of a lion, who is growling and rearing up on his hind legs. Abba Samuʾel grasps the lion’s mane in his hand and is guiding it. He is shown with a beard and wears typical monastic garb: dark robes with white borders and a red belt. He is barefoot and carries only a prayer stick in his right hand. Abba Samuʾel has a halo and wears a stone cap.

The hole in the upper-right corner of the parchment is a wormhole. That in the upper-left corner is possibly a nail hole, and may be evidence that the parchment was once hung on the wall. There remains evidence of another two border frames, visible at the upper-right and lower-right edges of this fragment, further suggesting that Abba Samuʾel’s icon was removed from a larger parchment that contained multiple, similar icons of other Ethiopian saints.There is a crease below the rear feet of the lion that the artist used as a ground line, suggesting that it was there before this image was painted. The under drawing is visible for the lion’s body, legs, and mane.

Madison Gilmore-Duffey, in Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture 8, no. 1 (Spring 2022): 221.

2020.408-back.jpg (6965 kB)
Reverse view


Samuel, Waldebba, ge'ez


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