‘Armenia!’ at the Met
“One small display in an exhibition can grab you by the collar,” writes Gini Alhadeff. “In the case of “Armenia!” at the Metropolitan Museum, it was the image of a spherical wide-eyed crab in a ridged armor swallowing Alexander the Great, along with his ship and retinue, set against a wavy sea that might have been drawn by a child. It is attributed to Zak‘ariay of Gnunik and appears in an illuminated manuscript of the Alexander Romance (1538–1544), the legends surrounding the exploits of Alexander the Great, much loved by Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Armenians alike.
The exhibition opened with the Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America blessing the occasion by singing, with two others, an allelujah in a voice that filled the galleries with the sound of Armenian liturgical chants. There are one hundred and forty objects in the show, including jewelry and reliquaries, as well as church models, illustrated manuscripts, and textiles for liturgical use—one fourteen-foot-long red and gold “omophorion” of interwoven square crosses is reminiscent of the Russian avant-garde artist Kazimir Malevich’s crosses on canvas and icons on paper. The objects on display range from the fourth to the seventeenth centuries and represent the different regions Armenians inhabited, from their homeland at the base of Mount Ararat, to the kingdom of Cilicia, and further East to New Julfa, in Iran.”
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