A History of Painting in East Gojjam in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries: A Study of the ‘Second Gondarine Style of Painting

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Addis Ababa University


As early as the introduction of Christianity in the fourth century A.D. painting apparently was an important component of the Christian art of Ethiopia. Paintings that have come to light so far date back to the eleventh century A.D. This thesis attempts to study the last part of the history of painting in Ethiopia by concentrating on a small geographical unit, East Gojjam. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the art of painting underwent significant changes. Several different ways of expressing the same theme emerged. Most important of the developments was the growing regional variation and the emergence of schools. Almost all of the paintings described and analyzed in this thesis are paintings that are yet known to scholars of art history. They are found in the different churches and monasteries of East Gojjam. In reconstructing the history of painting in East Gojjam in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries contemporary as well as later written documents are used in addition to the paintings. Oral information is also an important source for this thesis. The main focus of this thesis is showing the variations in expression, selection of themes, rendering of costume and composition at different times through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the first half of the eighteenth century the Second Gondärine style of painting was introduced in East Gojjam. In the middle and second half of the century the style was widely in use for decorating church walls and manuscript illumination. The period from the 1770s to the turn of the century witnessed the flourishing of the style. Several vi churches were decorated and manuscripts were illuminated in these churches. The painting of the eighteenth century did not show significant variation. In the nineteenth century variations in expression became very wide. In the last part of the nineteenth century the art of painting flourished and a large number of painters existed. The painting of this period shows difference from the painting of the earlier period in composition. An attempt has also been made to trace the relationship between artistic and social and political developments