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The Artists of Vaspourakan*


Artist Hovsian, The Last Supper, Gospel, 1306, village Berdakn (Berkri), MS 4806, 11b, size 34 x23

"Without referring to particulars, the artists of Vaspourakan communicate the principal idea and convey individual elements of it through the synthesis of composition, motion, rhythmic lines and contrasting colors, i.e., the part is expressed in the whole and through the whole." *  Below are brief biographical sketches of the Vaspourakan artists.

Quick Access Artists' List

nSimeon Ardjishetsi




nHovhannes Khizantsi

nUnknown Artist 2






nZakaria Gnunetsi


nGrigor Khlatetsi

nVardan Baghishetsi





nUnknown Artist 1


nKirakos Aghbaketsi


nKhatchatour Khizantsi

nZakaria Akhtamartsi


nZakaria Avantsi


nKarapet Berkretsi

nSarkis Khizantsi


nKarapet Akhtamartsi


Grigor Khlatetsi

An eminent representative of medieval Armenian culture.  He is the author of chronicles, colophons, anthems, poems, and is known as a renowned editor and interpreter, as well as a scribe.  He was born in Khlat.  His father's name was Tser; that is why he was also called Grigor Tzerents.  He has been in various provinces of Armenia, founding and directing many schools.  Grigor Khlatetsi has copied and illuminated numerous manuscripts of which the Yerevan Madenataran possesses the following eight codexes: Nos. 5435, 5328, 1573, 8775, 3714, 1520-1521, 7019, 8356.  Grigor Khlatetsi's illuminations are characterized by the simplicity of drawing in combination with bright and fair colours, thus remaining true to the tradition of Vaspourakan miniature painting.  Illustrations: 53, 54

Artist Grigor Khlatetsi, Primary School, Gospel, 1419, The Monastery of Tzipna, MS 3714, 8b, size 23.5 x 16

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In all probability, he was the grandson of Zakaria Akhtamartsi and the son of Touma.  His mother's name was Khondmelek.  His teacher was priest Mekertich.  Both manuscripts illustrated by him and preserved in the Madenataran date in the fifteenth century (MSS 8933, 7566).  Hovhannes excels in his good command of illustration, his subtle combination of red and green.  The general mute gamut lends a vivid trait to the miniatures of this artist.  Illustration: 55

Artist Hovhannes, Praying to the Holy Virgin, Gospel, 1460, Khizan, MS 7566, 9a, size 27.5 x 18.3


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Unknown Artist 1

The author of the Madenataran manuscript under review (MS 5511), the scribe, Hovhannes, makes no mention of the artist who provided the illustrations.  Possibly the scribe himself was the illuminator.  The artist of this manuscript takes up a leading place in the Vaspourakan school of miniatures.  A peculiar trait of his composition is the definite direction of the figures to the semantic centre.  Preference is given to dark saturated pigments: blue, green, red and brown, which in combination with the distinct and succulent picture, makes a vivid impression.  The scene of "Marriage at Cana" should be singled out for mention for its secular interpretation: national festive attire and musical instruments are pictured in the painting: bambir, doodook (a sort of pipe).  Illustrations: 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61


Uknown Artist, The Baptism of Christ, Gospel, 15th c., Khizan?, MS 5511, 3a, size 27 x 17

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One of the most productive representatives of the Vaspourakan school of miniatures of the fifteenth century.  About two dozen manuscripts have attained us; they cover the period from 1441 to the sixties and seventies of the same century (MSS 3892, 6450, 6570, 982, 4472, 5172, 4648, 4883, 5629, 9858, 6390, 5519, 5355, 3413, 6653, 5013, 6378, 6879, 4869, 6501).  Minas lived in various towns of Vaspourakan and had many pupils.  Judging by his creations, he was the first professional painter in Vaspourakan.  His father, Maltan by name, was a monk of the Akhtamar monastery.  Minas is consummately versed in the nuances of painting and composition.  The decorative ornamental gamut of colours, in alliance with gold, imparts the miniatures' splendor and beauty.  Illustrations: 62, 63, 64

Artist Minas, The Nativity and teh Adoration of the Magi, Prayer-book, 1450, Artskeh, MS 982, 4b, size 31.5 x 21.5


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An original and skillful artist of Vaspourakan, he lived in the mid-fifteenth century.  He spent most of his life in Moks.  He was conversed in the art of scribing and illumination by Margara Koretsi, Ter-Vardan, and the priest Tovma.  His parents were Amirshah and Shnofor (his mother).  Stacked in the Madenataran are six of Israel's manuscripts (MSS 4922, 6550, 5459, 4263, 5419, 4976).  Israel's light water-colour technique, with a predominance of blue and mustard shades, blends with the plastic picture and lends his paintings outer space tranquility.  Illustrations: 65, 66, 67


Artist Israel, The Sacrifice of Abraham, Gospel, 1447, Possavank (Moks), MS 4922, 3a, 25 x 18

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Karapet Berkretsi


He should be regarded as the most gifted pupil of Minas.  Karapet Berkretsi lived in the second half of the fifteenth century.  He frequented the various major areas of Vaspourakan and like his teacher, was engaged only in painting.  The Madenataran owns nine of his illustrated manuscripts (MSS 4778, 6767, 5067, 4955, 7209, 1620, 1591, 2445, 7835).  Resorting to simple compositional structures, Karapet Berkretsi's objective was the creation of a definite form.  To achieve this aim, he set great store by the role of the colour as a significant element in the emotional-psychological manifestation of the principal idea.  Giving preference to one colour (in the main, burnt red), the artist made use of the various shades and achieved exclusive tension, an exceptional dramatic force.  Illustrations: 68, 69, 70

Artist Karapet Berkretsi, The Baptism of Christ, Gospel, 1462, Ardjesh, MS 4778, 3b, size 24 x 17

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Karapet Akhtamartsi

This past-master was likewise a trainee of the celebrated miniaturist Minas.  He is a contemporary of Berkretsi.  He spent all of his creative life on the island of Akhtamar.  He is a descendant of the artist's dynasty of Zakaria.  His father's name was Hovhannes and his mother's was Sharmelik.  Nine of his illustrated manuscripts have come down to the Madenataran (MSS 4837, 775, 2632, 5702, 5738, 4875, 4201,  6355, 10128).  One of the merits of the miniatures presented in the album is the secular theme, the depiction of real life.  Illustrations: 71, 72, 73

Artist Karapet Akhtamartsi, Ordination of the King, Mashtots, 1471, Akhtamar, MS 5702, 212b, size 21.5 x 16.5

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Lived and painted in the mid-fifteenth century in Akhtamar , he was the brother of the Catholicos Stepanos II and the son of Janibek and Emna Khatoun.  He was trained by the eminent scribe and miniaturist Touma Minassents .  His collection in the Madenataran comprises six illustrated manuscripts (MSS 3848, 5544, 1449, 5702, 4779, 4728).  The contour lines of his illuminations are drawn in pure bright colours.  They shine like precious jewels placed on paper.  Illustrations: 74, 75

Artist Nerses, The Baptism of Christ, Gospel, 1474, Khizan, MS 4779, 4a, size 25 x 17

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Unknown Artist 2

His life story remains unknown.  The subject of "The Last Judgement" (MS 3891), reproduced in the album, is frequently met with in the Vaspourakan manuscripts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the best interpretation of the them being selected for the present album.  Illustration: 76

Unknown Artist, The Last Judgement, Gospel, 15th c., Vaspourakan, MS 3891, 16a, size 18 x 12.5

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The Artists of Vaspourakan Continued > > >

*Information and photos about Vaspourakan miniature found on this site, unless otherwise indicated, are quoted and taken  from Armenian Miniature Vaspourakan [Madenataran, Mashtot's Institute of Old Manuscripts Under the Auspices of the Council of Ministers of the Armenian SSR, 1978; "Sovetakan Grogh" Publishing House, Yerevan].  Compiled, Introduction, and Commentaries by Hravard Hakopian; Editors: V.H. Kazarian, A.S. Matevossian; publishing editors: V.L. Vartanian, A.S. Sharourian, M.V. Sahagian, A.S. Hovsepian; photographer:R.S. Bedrossian; Kegharvesdagan editor: Ok. A. Asadrian; Krki maged@ yev dekh. editoring: A.A. Madiniani; Proofreading Editors: E. B. Boghossian, B. S. Avedissian, A. O. Ayvazian.



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