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Double-sided Diptych with Mary at Dabra Metmaq (Front); Saints (Back)
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Double-sided Diptych with Mary at Dabra Metmaq (Front); Saints (Back)


Description Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description The small scale of this painting and its protective covers facilitated its use as a portable icon. The hollow wooden cylinder attached to the body allowed the painting to be suspended from the owner's neck. The practice of wearing icons of the Virgin as pendants is documented in written sources as early as the fifteenth century. The main scene on this doubled-sided pendant commemorates the feast of Däbrä Metmaq. According to the "Miracles of Mary," this feast was instituted to celebrate an event that occurred annually in the church of Dayr al-Magtas, Egypt. For five days each spring, Mary miraculously appeared inside the cupola of the church, bathed in light and surrounded by angels. The main panel of this icon captures the visionary character of this event by enclosing the Virgin in a band of yellow light. Seraphim surround the outer border of red. The archangels Michael and Gabriel, depicted on the inside cover, evoke the heavenly hosts that accompanied the Virgin. By representing the major figures, the painter recreated the miraculous apparition in miniature for the pendant's owner. As the Festival of Däbrä Metmaq was especially important to women, and as the reverse of the pendant also bears the likenesses of two female martyr-saints, the patron of this work might have been female. The legend of the 15th-century saint Krestos Sämra describes how Christ bequeathed to her a painting, which he hung pendant-like around her neck. The delicately carved, painted covers transformed the closed pendant into a cherished object of personal devotion.
Exhibitions
  • Ethiopian Art at The Walters. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1996.
  • Realms of Faith: Medieval and Byzantine Art from the Walters Art Museum. Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville. 2001-2002.
  • Realms of Faith: Medieval and Byzantine Art from the Walters Art Museum. Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville. 2002-2005.
  • Angels of Light: Ethiopian Art from the Walters Art Museum. Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton; Museum of Biblical Art, New York. 2006-2007.
Provenance Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection, Washington, D.C. [date and mode of acquisition unknown] [Nooter 20.11]; Walters Art Museum, 1996, by purchase.
Credit Museum purchase with funds provided by the W. Alton Jones Foundation Acquisition Fund, 1996

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Creator
Period
late 17th century (Gondarine)
Medium
tempera on panel
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
36.8
Measurements
H open: 4 3/8 x W: 10 1/8 in. (11.11 x 25.7 cm); H closed: 4 3/8 x W: 3 5/8 in. (11.11 x 9.2 cm); Panel H: 3 3/16 x W: 3 1/4 in. (8.09 x 8.25 cm)
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