The ancient Ethiopian Orthodox painting

Among the numerous and notable works that make up the collection of the Museum of Capuchin Cultural Heritage in Milan, this panel painted in tempera comes from Ethiopia and dates back to approximately the second half of the seventeenth century. It is a fine example of those artifacts nowadays called “Ethiopian icons”, although they differ substantially, both for executive techniques and for use, from the most famous oriental icons. The work, which has come to us in fair conditions, despite some fall in color, proposes an iconographic subject called in the language geez Kwer’ata re’esu, literally translatable as Our Lord beaten and which corresponds, in the Western tradition, to an Ecce Homo , or a Christ crowned with thorns. A European painting on a panel that took up this iconography, during the 16th century, he was in Ethiopia at the imperial court; the exact modalities, the circumstances and the period in which they arrived are not known, but it is well known that it had a rather singular destination: it became the real royal palladium, it was carried into battle as an imperial banner and the nobles and the army swore loyalty to the emperor over it.

Cappuccini Museum (Milan)
Museo dei Cappuccini (Milan)

The icon of the Cappuccini Museum is a faithful copy of it. Many details of the palladium are here reproduced on time: Jesus is depicted half-length, with the crown of thorns strangely white, his gaze turned downwards, his hands open, his mouth ajar; the same is the buttoning of the mantle, which in other copies appears more elaborate; exactly as in the original the beard is divided into two points; the drops of blood are replicated with precision, while the nimbus differs, which presents the typical characteristics of the so-called “first style of Gondar” (seventeenth century). The unusually lengthened somatic features of Jesus stand out, a rather rare detail; in addition, the blanket is white, in contrast to the original green. The figures of the two torturers portrayed behind Christ bear clothes of Moorish style with turban: but it must be borne in mind that Ethiopia was a Christian nation surrounded by Muslim states, and had long suffered their ferocious raids. The table, which had been prepared with a layer of polished plaster on which the tempera colors had been applied directly, reveals similarities with an icon preserved in the Museum of Addis Ababa.

Note:- The article originally written in Italian language, you can find it here. I used google translator to translate it.