Arts and culture

In the late XIVth century, Ovanes Vorotnetsi established the largest university in the South Caucasus, located at Tatev Monastery. Subjects taught there included philosophy, theology, grammar, physics, mathematics and astronomy, calligraphy, native speech, literature, history and architecture, with instruction in miniature arts and mural painting, painting fundamentals and bookmaking technology. The university trained dignitaries, theologians, pedagogues and manuscript writing specialists. Instruction lasted for 7-8 years. Apart from 500 monks, residing at Tatev were philosophers, musicians, writers and artists. The university’s zenith is related to the activities of deans Ovanes Vorotnetsi (1325-1388) and Grigor Tatevatsi (1346-1410).   

A rather limited but valuable number of miniatures by this school from the XIV-XVth centuries (the miniature school at Tatev dated to the IXth century) has been preserved. Tatev continues the best traditions of the Gladzor School of miniature painting. One representative of the Tatev school is Grigor Tatevatsi, who in 1378 illustrated the Gospel. In his works, the latter repeatedly examines questions of aesthetics and the principles he himself applied in his artistic work. Tatevatsi’s mastery is evidenced by the unique palette, dominated by bright red and blue colors, combined with brown and yellow tints. His works are marked by monumentality and consistency of figure proportions. Human faces are displayed very precisely and expressively. 

One of the best masters of the early XVth century is Hayrapet (also mentioned by the name Nagash Hayrapet). Part of his Gospel illustration from 1407 has been preserved, as well as the book “Aismavruk” (Armenian collection of Christian holidays, hagiographies and martyrdoms). The artist’s variegated paintings are mature works of the miniature arts, marked by rich colorfulness and elegance. The miniature painter Abraham worked at Tatev in the late XVth century. Developing the traditions of the Tatev and Gladzor miniature schools, he was influenced by the works of Toros Taronatsi.  

Illustrations without thematic miniatures were also made at Tatev. The Tatev miniature school existed for around 50 years and left a substantial trace in the history of Armenian art.