In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Armenian Art

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Anthologies
  • Periodicals and Book Series
  • Historiography
  • Exhibition Catalogues and Collection-Specific Overviews
  • The Arts of the Book: Overviews and Selected Catalogues
  • Armenian Manuscript Studies: Iconography
  • Cilician Manuscript Painting
  • Non-Biblical Manuscript Illustration
  • Manuscript and Icon Painting of the 15th to 18th Centuries
  • Paleography, Binding, and Early Printed Books
  • Image Worship and Iconoclasm
  • The Stele and the Khachk‘ar (Cross-Stone)
  • Monumental Sculpture
  • Overviews of Architecture
  • Building Practices
  • Architecture from the 4th to 7th Century
  • Regional Studies, Specific Architectural Types, and Individual Monuments
  • Monumental Painting and Mosaic
  • Metalwork, Woodwork, Ceramics, Coins, and Textiles

Medieval Studies Armenian Art
Christina Maranci
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 August 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0209


Armenian art, difficult to define in rigid terms as a category, is understood here as art and material culture in various media made for, by, or within communities self-identified as Armenian or Armenian-speaking. Armenian art, therefore, includes a few mosaic pavements produced in Jerusalem, churches constructed in the New Julfa district of Isfahan, and textiles embroidered in Constantinople, as well as the rich artistic and architectural tradition of the plateau of historical Armenia (encompassing eastern and southwestern parts of the present-day Turkish Republic, northern Iran, Azerbaijan, southern Georgia, and the present-day Republic of Armenia). The periodization of Armenian art generally spans from late antiquity to the 17th century, based on the continuity of religious, literary, technological, and artistic traditions during this time. Late antiquity witnessed the conversion of Armenia to Christianity and the emergence of Armenian literature, while the 17th century saw profound changes in the political and social landscape of Armenia—the division of the historic lands between Ottoman and Safavid empires, the emergence of large diasporas, the rise of a global merchant economy, the introduction of print, and new, sustained contact with Europe. Within this broad chronological and geographical frame, church architecture, stone sculpture (bas-reliefs and steles) and book arts have earned the most critical attention, but equally important are works in metal, wood, ceramic, and textiles, as studies are increasingly showing. Gaining attention, too, are studies of image worship and historiography. Alongside longstanding approaches such as iconography, social history and patronage have emerged as important interpretive tools for understanding Armenian art.

General Overviews

General introductions to Armenian art typically focus on artistic production between the 4th and 17th centuries CE. Der Nersessian 1978 and Thierry and Donabédian 1989 are both authoritative and handsomely illustrated. Der Nersessian 1978 is necessarily cursory but erudite, and considers the historical context of a large range of works and their stylistic and iconographic characteristics. Thierry and Donabédian 1989 is much more comprehensive, including substantial photographic documentation and a catalogue of the principal architectural sites. Kouymjian 1992, the authoritative Internet site on the subject, presents medieval manuscripts, architecture, metalwork, and bibliography with critical commentary. Abrahamian, et al. 2001 combines art-historical and anthropological perspectives, linking ancient and medieval art to modern practices and living traditions. Mutafian 2012 is a massive study of both Cilician Armenia and the historic Armenian homeland with discussion of medieval monuments and pictorial works.

  • Abrahamian, Levon, Nancy Sweezy, and Sam Sweezy. Armenian Folk Arts, Culture, and Identity. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

    A large-format book, handsomely illustrated, considering Armenian material culture from antiquity to the present day. Thematic essays consider subjects such as the sacred landscape, the dwelling place, works in wood, metal, and clay, costume, and festivals.

  • Der Nersessian, Sirarpie. Armenian Art. Translated by Sheila Bourne and Angela O’Shea. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978.

    English translation of L’art arménien, first published in 1977. A large-format, handsomely illustrated book concerning the periods between late antiquity and the 17th century, with special emphasis on architecture, manuscript painting, and stone sculpture. Includes useful footnotes.

  • Kouymjian, Dickran. The Arts of Armenia (Accompanied by a Collection of 300 Slides in Color). Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 1992.

    Comprehensive website for the study of Armenian art and architecture. Includes explanatory thematic essays on a range of subjects from metalwork to music, a vocabulary of specialized terms, indices, and searchable databases (with illustrations) of manuscripts and monuments.

  • Mutafian, Claude. L’Arménie du Levant (XIe-XIVe siècle). Paris: Belles-Lettres, 2012.

    Encyclopedic history of medieval Armenia (including both Cilicia and the Armenian plateau) accompanied by abundant genealogies, maps, inscriptions, and over two hundred excellent-quality illustrations of both celebrated and lesser-known works.

  • Thierry, Jean-Michel, and Patrick Donabédian. Armenian Art. Translated by Célestine Dars. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1989.

    English translation of Les arts arméniens, first published in 1987. A massive (623 pp.) book accompanied by beautiful photographs considering Armenian art from late antiquity to the 17th century, with emphasis on architecture, manuscripts, and sculpture but also considering numismatics, ceramics, and textiles.

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