Monday, January 6, 2014

The Sacred, Seen from Ethiopia

The Minneapolis Institute of Art recently opened a show called Sacred. Each room highlights different types of sacredness -- sacred fluids, the sacred journey, sacred words. It's a nice way to put together a range of art from around the world and inspire the viewer.

My favorite part was the room called Sacred Worship, which contained almost four dozen paintings originally from an Ethiopian sacred text. Created in the 17th century by an unknown artist or workshop, they were sewn into a book that was later divided into separate pieces. About a third of them depict local saints or significant figures, while the majority show Biblical scenes.

The text is written in Ge'ez, "a language used today only in a liturgical context (much like Latin in the West)." The male figures often have line-art chin beards like these that, at first, appear to be toothy grins.

These expressive faces make me wish I'd taken better notes on what this scene depicts.

A classic Madonna and child image.

John the Baptist baptizing Christ.

Pontius Pilate (top left) washing his hands, with Christ in the lower right being led by guards who hold rods to beat him. Note that Pilate and the guards are white, while Christ (and Mary, John the Baptist, and the other saints) have dark skin. (Take that, Megyn Kelly.)

The crucifixion, with Mary in tears at left. Just above the cross, a rendering of the solar eclipse that's about to happen.

Star Tribune review of the the Sacred exhibit

1 comment:

Michon Weeks said...

I read with interest your description of Ethiopian artwork at the MIA. I have created a series of paintings inspired by the series. You can see the series on my website. Just click on the "paintings" link.

Michon Weeks