Africa, Ethiopia, ca. 18th to 19th century CE. A very long handwritten healing scroll, written in the distinctive Ge'ez (Ethiopic) language, and comprised of two pieces of vellum sewn together at the center with calligraphic prayer passages in black and red ink as well as figural imagery. The names of the people being prayed for, along with the names of saints or other important personages, are highlighted in the text by red writing. Most of the literature of Christian Abyssinia is written in the Ge'ez language and comes from the ancient Aksumitic Empire. Ethiopians come from one of the oldest Christian countries and practice a distinctive form of the religion, embodied in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which has a large and diverse Biblical canon, much of which would not be familiar to other Christians. Size: 4" W x 59.5" L (10.2 cm x 151.1 cm); 8" W x 64" L(20.3 cm x 162.6 cm) in plexiglass case
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has several Ethiopian healing scrolls in their collection (accession numbers 2012.5, 2011.377, and 95.66). According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History essay written by Kristen Windmuller-Luna (Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University), "Ethiopian healing scrolls eliminate illness by purging evil spirits and demons from a sick person. Part of a larger healing ritual, the scrolls were commissioned by the illiterate to combat grave illnesses. While plant and animal medicines alleviate physical symptoms, the medicinal scrolls alleviate spiritual symptoms. A pan-religious phenomenon practiced among Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the northern regions of Amhara and Tigray, the scrolls restore health by utilizing written words and talismanic images imbued with magical protective powers."
Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA, acquired in March 2006; ex-private Chicago, Illinois, USA collection
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Has not been examined outside the plexiglass mounting. Vellum shows nice signs of age, darkening, some creasing, losses to peripheries, a few inactive insect losses (upper and lower ends), some handwritten text in pen near the central figure, and a few tears as shown. Inscription and imagery are still vivid.