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Arts of Armenia: Sculpture
The most famous series of relief carvings in Armenian art are those which cover the entire facade of the tenth century church of the Holy Cross on the island of Aght"amar.

The church with its external carvings and internal frescoes was built as a palace church between 915 and 921 for king Gagik Artsruni. The unusually deep carving combined with the monumental character of Christ and other figures make this collection of sculpture unique in both Armenian and world art.

The sculptures at Aght"amar are of a mixed style, with only slight interest in classical forms. The art is very Eastern, very Armenian, peopled with biblical figures in rigid frontal poses. T

his remarkable façade combines an Old Testament cycle on the major band with a continuous peopled vine scroll above and, still higher, the large individual sculptures of the four Evangelists, one in each of the four roof pediments.

Elaborate sculpted scenes on tympana above church entrances and on the drums supporting the domes are popular in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

The monasteries of Tatev, Geghart, Hovhannavank", Haghbat, Sanahin, Saghmosavank", Makaravank", Noravank" at Amaghu, Haghartsin, Kech"aris, Ts"akhats"k"ar], and Spitakavor are among the most famous.

In both quantity and quality, these sculptures represent a very important chapter in Armenian art, one that deserves more attention.

2. Carved Stelae
There is also a large body of free-standing stone monuments in the form of either four-sided stelae or the famous and ubiquitous khach"k"ars. The stelae are found on the grounds of churches; the most famous group still in part in situ is at Talin. Some seventy stelae have been recorded.

They date from the fifth to seventh centuries; the medium was abandoned as a sculptural form after the Arab invasions. These monolithic stones, often two meters high, are fitted into a carved socle. The tops of some of them are recessed suggesting they were surmounted by a cross.

The motifs most frequently represented are standing saints. St. Gregory and King Trdat appear often, Trdat shown metamorphosed with the head of a boar following the story of his conversion to Christianity as known through the History of Agat"angeghos.

The Virgin is also frequently depicted as is Christ; crosses or decorative designs are sometimes found on one or more of the four sides. Narrative scenes from the Old Testament - Sacrifice of Abraham, Daniel in the lions" den, the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace - are more common than those from the Gospels - Baptism and the Crucifixion.

The iconography of these funerary or commemorative stelae is in keeping with early paleo-Christian models; in style and in the use of certain motifs an Oriental influence is apparent, both early Mesopotamian and Sasanian.

Among the most notable of these carved blocks are a very small number that are very tall, reminiscent of obelisks, and mounted on stepped platforms. The most famous are a pair nearly four meters high and enshrined in protecting arches next to the church of Odzun.

Two or three sides of their faces are carved and separated into ascending panels; pairs of saints, individual figures, and even a short narrative cycle, make up the catalogue of representations.

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Writer: Dickran Kouymjian
Editor: Eugenia Melkonyan
 Date Added: Tuesday September 05, 2006 10:53:09 

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