Over 100 color reproductions
Icons arabes is a wonderful collection that provides a glimpse into the cultural and spiritual life of Arab-speaking Christians, tangible reminders of their legacy and their ability to survive the avatars of history. It is easy to forget, in light of Islam’s prevalence there, that diverse cultural and religious traditions have existed in the Levant for centuries – from the time of the great ancient cities of Palmyra, Antioch, and Byzantium to the era of St. Paul and the Christian reformation. In an effort to preserve and make this rich cultural heritage better known, Antioch House in Lebanon, The Monastery of Saint-Jacques-le-Mutilé in Syria, the Ikonen Museum in Frankfurt and the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris have all collaborated with the Lebanese and Syrian Ministries of Culture in order to bring us this exquisite and unprecedented exhibition and book of Melkite treasures.
The eighty icons introduced here reveal a unique variation on and mastery of this religious art form. For centuries they have been carefully housed within private collections, churches, monasteries, convents and cultural institutions in Greece, Syria and Lebanon. Now, for the first time, they are being brought to light. Among these are works by the father of Melkite iconography, Yûsuf Al-Mussawwir, as well as many other major Arab iconographers. Also included is a superb twelfth-century depiction of Saints Serge and Bachus, recently discovered in a Syrian church, along with an unusual sixteenth-century representation of the Apostles presenting the Virgin with the Host, discovered in a Lebanese convent.
This collection also brings together Syrian, Arabic and Armenian manuscripts, liturgical ornaments, church vestments and objects of worship (some dating back to the fourth century). Of particular note is the thirteenth century codex, The Legend of Barlaam and Joasaph, from the Balamand Monastery in Lebanon, exposed for the first time after being restored at the Arles Center for Book Conservation. It is considered to be one of the oldest Arab-Christian illuminated manuscripts in existence.
Icones arabes is the catalogue based upon the exhibition presented at Frankfurt’s Ikonen Museum (November 24, 2002 – March 9, 2003) and at Paris’ Institut du Monde Arabe (May 6, 2003 - August 17, 2003).