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Mysteries of Armenia

At the Dawn of Renaissance

Many art critics tend to consider the earliest stages of the Armenian culture of the 9th–14th centuries to be the forerunner of European Renaissance. In fact, the representatives of Armenian medieval culture outstripped the renaissance artists in some aspects and quite possibly exerted certain influence on them. However, any influence would have been impossible without the intense interest that Europeans showed in the Armenian culture. Dante in particular used the ancient myth of Ara Geghetsik in his Divine Comedy (in the first act of the first song in Hades). National painting, miniature painting in particular, had also achieved remarkable success. “This contemporary of Dante, the predecessor of Giotto in Italy and Pancelin in Byzantium, had indeed taken the first pre-renaissance steps. The direction in which his activity developed got on a firm basis later on and expanded throughout Europe as the Early Renaissance”, wrote the famous art critic Lilia Durnovo in the middle of the previous century referring to Toros Rosslin. Many specialists consider mural painting in medieval Armenia to have excelled European Renaissance in its pictorial form. Kobayr Monastery presents the level of the Armenian painters of the 10th–11th centuries. According to Italian art critics many characters are easily recognizable, although European analogues of the portraits (e.g. the apostles) are obviously several centuries late.

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