Friday, January 11, 2019

Armenia! Exhibition reviewed in NYRB

THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS: Between Two Empires (Peter Brown).
an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, September 22, 2018–January 13, 2019

Armenia: Art, Religion, and Trade in the Middle Ages
Catalog of the exhibition edited by Helen C. Evans
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 351 pp., $65.00 (distributed by Yale University Press)
As I have already mentioned, the exhibition covers the full span of Armenian history, with some attention to its connections with Jewish tradition. On the latter, Professor Brown mentions one example:
[The fifth-century Battle of] Avarayr would never be forgotten. Heavily stylized, it was depicted as late as 1500, in manuscripts from the war-torn region of Lake Van. In one on view in the exhibition, the Persians advance behind a row of war elephants. This evoked a deep, pre-Christian past, for the original account of the battle drew heavily on the description of the confrontation between the war elephants of King Antiochus Eupator and the Jewish hero Judas Maccabaeus in the Book of Maccabees from the second century BC. Both battles were remembered as manifestations of heroic courage. Both showed a nation at war in defense of its religion. By following the Book of Maccabees, the Armenian writers found a way to express, for the first time in Christian history, the idea that an entire group of warriors could die in battle as martyrs for the faith.
I noted another review of the exhibition here.

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