- Museum number
Diptych contained in a silver gilt case which has on the front an applied eight pointed star decoration with a centrally mounted circular red stone [glass?]. The case is hinged along the right side by two small pin hinges, and opens from the left. It has two suspension points along the top edge.
Inside the case on the left hand side is a late 16th century Limoges enamel, in the style of Pierre Raymond, depicting Christ taking leave of his mother. The enamel is a copy of the 1509 woodcut of the same title by Albrecht Durer. The enamel is held in place by a series of triangular “teeth” around the edge.
On the right hand side is a gilded engraving of the Ethiopian saint Abun Gabra Manfus Qeddus. The saint is depicted standing with his hands raised in prayer, an elongated face with finely engraved features and a large halo. He wears a scapular and a robe scored with fine linear patterns representing the belief that the Saint was clothed only in his own hair. At his feet are four lions.
Around the left side, top edge and right side are inscriptions in Ge'ez and further inscriptions to either side of the saint.
- Production date
Height: 11.50 centimetres
Width: 13 centimetres
Depth: 7 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Ethno. Register,v.1 (1861-1868 etc.), p.52. Acquired when Ethno. collections were part of British and Medieval Dept. Transferred to Ethno. from Medieval and Later Dept. on 30.9.1992.
See file in Eth Doc 439 in AOA Archives on transfer of these objects from former Medieval & Later Dept.
- On display (G66/west)
- Exhibition history
1978, London, British Museum, Christian Orient
- Very good.
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Christ taking leave of his mother (By Albrecht Durer)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Maqdala, an almost impenetrable mountain top fortress in northern Ethiopia, became the seat of power and a retreat for Emperor Tewodros II (1855-1868). The Emperor intended Maqdala to become his capital and treasury. He collected many manuscripts from churches throughout Ethiopia and brought them to Maqdala with the intention of creating a great library and seat of learning. His treasury included many fine examples of Ethiopian art including textiles, paintings and metal work.
In the 1860s relations between Tewodros and Britain became strained and relations deteriorated further when Tewodros imprisoned the British consul and several European missionaries. In 1867 a military expedition led by Sir Robert Napier was sent to free the British captives with a force made up of 12,000 men from both the British and Indian armies.
At dawn on Easter Monday April 13th 1868, Napier ordered an assault on Maqdala to destroy Tewodros’s stronghold. When his troops entered the fortress they found the Emperor already dead. Rather than surrender, Tewodros had taken his own life using a pistol which had been a gift from Queen Victoria. This last defiant act has immortalised Tewodros as a national hero for many Ethiopians.
Material taken from Maqdala was auctioned soon after on the Delanta plain. Richard Rivington Holmes, an assistant in the manuscripts department of The British Museum, had accompanied the expedition as an archaeologist. He acquired a number of objects for the British Museum, including around 300 manuscripts which are now housed in the British Library. In 1868 the Secretary of State for India, Sir Stafford Henry Northcote, 1st Earl of Iddesleigh, donated to The British Museum two further collections of material from Maqdala.
Material from Maqdala can be found in public collections in North America and Europe as well as in private collections worldwide. When the Maqdala collections first entered the British Museum in 1868 they stimulated a worldwide interest in the archaeology, history and culture of Ethiopia which has continued to this day. For Tewodros’ library see Rita Pankhurst ‘The Library of Emperor Tewodros II…’ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 36(1), 1973 pp 15-42.
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number