Portrait of King Levon III and Queen Keran with their children, 1272 A.D.

ne of the most beautiful and sumptuous manuscripts of the late thirteenth century is the Gospel of Queen Keran (Jerusalem, Armenian Patriarchate, No. 2563). It was copied for the Queen at Sis, the capital of Cilician Kingdom, in 1272 by famous scribe Avetis. This is perhaps the most elegant manuscript of the Medieval Armenia. Unfortunately the name of the painter is not preserved in the colophons. May be it is Konstandin, one of the best painters of that time. Among the canon tables and richly decorated headpieces, thirteen full-page miniatures illustrating the main events in the life of Christ and a hundred and three marginal miniatures, the portrait of royal family is the most remarkable (folio 380). This miniature can be regarded as the apogee of the medieval Armenian portrait illumination.

The Queen Keran and her husband, King Levon III (1236-1289) are represented here together with their five children - three sons and two daughters - kneeling piously in front of a Deesis, which is the dominant element in the miniature. At the top of the picture Christ enthroned in a heavenly sphere, in accordance with the Byzantine iconographic type of the Deisis, is flanked by two merciful mediators, the Virgin and St. John the Baptist, who are intercessing for members of family soliciting divine indulgence. The divine protection descents, from the heavenly sphere in the form of seven golden rays directed at the royal family.

Next to King Levon III are represented prince Hetum (future King Hetum II, 1289-1307), princes Toros (+ 1296) and Ruben, princesses Fimi and Sibile I.

The King and Queen are in full court dress: a tunic decorated with bands embroidered with gold and precious stones and a red mantle lined with vair. The tunics with dangling sleeves worn by the young princes show the variety of luxurious cloths used for the garments of the nobility: fine gold chains are attached to the princess's diadems. This miniature is a document of great historical importance, giving a comprehension about the fashions of the Cilician Armenian court.

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Updated: JUNE 16, 1996