Saint Luke
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Byzantine, Nicaea or Nicomedia, early 1200s
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
8 1/8 x 5 7/8 in.

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Before the Gospel of Saint Luke, the illuminator placed a portrait of the evangelist. Seated in an elaborate throne with his book open on his knees, Luke writes his Gospel, his account of Jesus' life and teachings. The tradition of including author portraits in manuscripts began in antiquity; by the thirteenth century, the inclusion of portraits of the evangelists in Gospel books had become quite common.

A feeling of naturalism drawn from Classical art and a stylized abstraction more typical of Byzantine art coexist in the miniature. The modeling of Luke's flesh and especially the rendering of the drapery around his thigh give the figure a strong sense of three-dimensionality, and the saint appears to sit comfortably in his ample throne. But this naturalism in the treatment of the seated figure does not extend to the setting. The saint dwarfs the stylized cityscape, which is set before a plain gold background.