Saint Mark
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Byzantine, Constantinople, about 1300
Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment
7 9/16 x 5 11/16 in.

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In this detached leaf from a Gospel Book, the naturalistic draperies that envelop the saint and the detailed rendering of his writing tools contrast with a bare, gleaming gold background. These elements are characteristic of the late Byzantine painting style prominent at the court of the Emperor after the sack of the capital, Constantinople (modern Istanbul), in 1204. The leaf would have originally preceded the text of the Gospel writer shown here, Saint Mark. Seated and sharpening his pen, he prepares to write the first word of his Gospel. The distinctive painted frame around Saint Mark is one element that allows art historians to date the leaf; its large corner decorations and deeply curling foliate ornaments correspond with a group of illuminated manuscripts painted around 1300 in Constantinople.