According to topschoolsintheusa, Medieval Armenian sculpture mainly performed a decorative function in relation to architecture; in fact, no full-relief sculpture is known, with the exception of a portrait of King Gagik I Bagratide (989-1020) in the iconography of the donor, found in Ani at the beginning of this century and mysteriously disappeared immediately afterwards. The development of this production can be followed since the flourishing of the precocious local Christianity (beginning of the 4th century), to which we owe the birth of a necessarily new architecture. areas of the Eastern Christian world: Syria, Upper Mesopotamia and Coptic Egypt. But it is above all to the great Iranian decorative tradition, to his vast production of architectural stuccoes – continued by the aniconic Persian and Central Asian Islam in particular, but also Mesopotamian and North African – which must be referred to in order to identify the possible sources of a border art such as the Armenian one, where the lack of movement and narrative rhythm, the frontal representation, the decoration with human heads, the frequency of hunting scenes, the massive presence of animals, all constitute elements that can be traced back to Iran. a typological criterion. In fact, it is possible to distinguish the architectural decoration elaborated and realized for the whole of a building (i.e. of a real cycle) from the limited decoration or single elements, generally in strict connection with the structural function (capitals, cornices, portals and windows), or with single reliefs, not included in larger cycles, often erratic or re-used elements.
Finally, we can identify several regional schools, quite well characterized by the diversity of style and the time of their development. 5th to 7th – apart from a series of figured steles with unusual iconography from T’alin (v.), Hariča and Ojun, which were replaced by the much more widespread and lasting stone crosses (xač’k’ar), symbols both of the Christian faith and national identity – focused on capitals and erratic reliefs, such as those found in Dvin, variously dated from the 16th century. 5th to 7th, but, above all, on more complex decorative cycles. Among these we must at least mention those of the churches of Ptlni, from the end of the century. 6 °, from the elegant frames around the windows, which vary from the simple hemispherical ornament to the elaborate phytomorphic motifs, to the characters in medallions, to hunters on foot and on horseback, to flying angels; of Mren (see, 639-640), where two portals, one also equipped with a lunette, are decorated with historical and religious scenes of considerable iconographic interest and great compositional strength; of Zvart’noc ‘(v.), from the middle of the century. 7 °, in which the vast program of architectural decoration included a large quantity of reliefs and numerous capitals. substantially iconodule, the sculptural production of the secc. 8 ° and 9 ° is very scarce, as indeed the architectural one, given the serious vicissitudes that the country had to overcome following the Arab invasion of 642. It dates back to the first quarter of the century. 10 ° the most complete and richest decorative cycle of Armenian sculpture, that of the church of Alt’amar (v.) On Lake Van. Shortly after (c. 937) is the decoration of the Holy Apostles (Aṙak’eloc ‘) to Kars, completely different for the compositional simplicity limited, however, to the figures of the apostles on the drum; the latter is also adorned by a continuous band under the roof, by a series of blind arches and by heavy cornices overhanging the windows open in the base volume. Also worthy of mention is the rich sculptural decoration of the church of Bleno Noravank ‘, from the 13th century. 10 ° -11 °, part of a monastic complex now disappeared and perhaps the Palatine chapel of the metropolitan of the region, including, in addition to elaborate capitals and unusual ornaments at the base of the pillars, eight stone panels in relief with scenes from the Life of Christ of some iconographic interest, once applied to the external walls, according to a very rare use in Armenian.
The development of Armenian sculpture after the century. 10 ° is linked to the growth of some urban agglomerations, but, above all, to the expansion of monasticism. In Ani, capital of the bagratid kingdom of the Armenia from 961 to 1045 and an important cultural center between the century. 10th and 13th centuries, a local school of architecture flourished (courtly and aimed at repeating the great models of the 6th and 7th centuries), which relegated sculpture to an almost exclusive function of the volumetric device. This decoration, although accurate and abundant, is maintained in a geometric context and the examples with figurative elements (cathedral, 980-1001; church of the Savior, 12th and 13th centuries; Hoṙomos convent, 12th and 13th centuries; S. Grigor of Tigran Honenc ‘, 1215) are exceptions. But decorative sculpture is found, in this period, more than anything else, in convent buildings, whose complex and articulated aggregations constitute, as in Europe, citadels with defensive functions and at the same time laboratories for cultural and artistic production. The large surfaces of the external walls of monastic churches are used, often using a symbolic language whose key has been almost completely lost, to illustrate generally profane subjects that recur, moreover, also in the internal decoration located on the capitals, on the trumpets on which the domes are set and, more rarely, in other areas of the church and of the vast room in front, called in Armenian gavit ‘or žamatun. The more elaborate and extensive decoration appears undoubtedly in the convent churches of the 13th century. 12th and 13th, a period of notable recovery and of great constructive fervor. The complexes of the century must be remembered for the rich, even if fragmentary, decorative ensemble. 13 ° of Nor Varagvank ‘, Hałbat, Xoranašat (all in the north of the country), Haričavank’, Salmosavank ‘, Hovhannavank’, Gełard (in the central area), to which must be added the church of S. Astvacacin in Elvard from the first half of sec. 14 ° and T’anadivank ‘(in the eastern region of Vayoc’ Jor). The iconographic program only rarely includes the facades of the churches, also given the widespread presence of the gavit ‘leaning against the west wall; a notable exception is represented by the imposing figures of s. Pietro and s. Paolo, high m. 1.70, which flank the entrance to the church in Aljoc’vank ‘(13th century), in which Western ways are felt above all in the rendering of the drapery. There is little evidence of the internal decorative apparatus: they remain in Tełenyac’vank ‘(12th-13th centuries), in which six marble slabs, recently found, with geometric and phytomorphic motifs are leaning against the high step of the presbytery. two variously stylized birds, and a Makaravank ‘- complex of religious buildings dating from the century. 9 ° to 13 ° with many reliefs with predominantly zoomorphic subjects -, in which a similar stone face features eight-pointed stars framing geometric, vegetable and animal motifs, close, especially the latter, to the contemporary Seljuk sculpture. almost of decoration both for the presence of brick as a building material and for the overall modest appearance that characterizes them; therefore, the complexes of Ganjasar and Dadivank, both in the Arc’ax (today the autonomous province of łarabał, in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan) are to be considered as exceptional cases. The first, of the century. 12 °, reveals a rich external sculptural apparatus: the west tympanum, characterized by the unusual cross with figures carved on the wall, the elaborate west portal, enriched by polychrome marbles, and above all the polyhedral drum in which each face presents a different repertoire (two donors seated in the oriental style who hold the model of the church above their head, angels, animal heads, birds with spread wings, motifs geometric). Inside, too, decorative elements abound: frames, friezes, as well as the surface of the step of the presbytery, entirely sculpted with ribbon-like motifs within a double frame.
In the second (12th-13th century), the simpler decoration is limited to geometric reliefs, rough figures of donors and an original portal whose lunette suggests, with a series of opposing triangles, the motif of a curtain. The church of Bardutimeosi vank ‘in Vaspurakan (today part of the vilayet of Van, Turkey), dating back to the period from the century. 12th to 14th, represents an even rarer case. Here the large west portal, carved into the thickness of the wall, was conceived as a monumental access to the church, as part of an accomplished, albeit unclear, iconographic program including two large lunettes, the upper one in high relief, with the Trinity, angels and animals, and the lower with a knight who throws the opponent, as well as flattened figures with the head in strong projection carved in the extrados.. 13th and 14th, gravitating around the figure of Momik, the first sculptor of whom we have certain information. In this region the production, as always in function of the refined architecture, is particularly abundant, as evidenced by the decorations of Arates (1270), Alayaz (1273), Areni (1321), Spitakavor (1321), Noravank ‘Amalu (1261-1339). In particular, the Noravank ‘Amalu complex presents the maximum concentration of sculptures of considerable formal value, often combined globally with Momik’s production, among which the two lunettes of the west facade of the gavit’ stand out, different from a technical and stylistic point of view. but united by a unitary dogmatic conception (the upper one, in high relief, with an imposing figure of the Creator; the lower one, in bas-relief, with the sweet image of the Virgin and Child on a hyper-decorated background), and the complex ornamentation of the sepulchral chapel of S. Astvacacin dating back to 1339, unanimously attributed to Momik, whose external decoration, characterized by two elaborate superimposed portals, it represents perhaps the culmination of Armenian plastic art. With Momik and his school the medieval period of Armenian sculpture ended, later relegated to the role of mere architectural decoration, however increasingly scarce; Instead, the production of xač’k’ar, generally aniconic and almost always anonymous, often used as sober funeral monuments continued with great abundance of specimens. vicissitudes of the monastic centers and churches for which it was built. Two capitals from the gavit ‘of S. Astvacacin in Sevan testify to the great compositional ability of the Armenian artists, dating back to the 13th century. 9th, with opposing doves on a background with phytomorphic motifs. It dates back to the beginning of the century. 11 ° the composed and yet vibrant Deposition from the Cross, coming from Havuc t’ar, called by Grigor Magistros, with a completely smooth background (of controversial Armenian or Georgian attribution). A certain decorative superabundance instead characterizes the door from Aṙak’eloc’vank ‘of Muş (1134), in which a large external band (architrave and uprights), sculpted without interruption with a large number of human and animal figures, frames doors thickly decorated and divided into various areas by elaborate geometric motifs. with a completely smooth background (of controversial Armenian or Georgian attribution). A certain decorative superabundance instead characterizes the door from Aṙak’eloc’vank ‘of Muş (1134), in which a large external band (architrave and uprights), sculpted without interruption with a large number of human and animal figures, frames doors thickly decorated and divided into various areas by elaborate geometric motifs. with a completely smooth background (of controversial Armenian or Georgian attribution). A certain decorative superabundance instead characterizes the door from Aṙak’eloc’vank ‘of Muş (1134), in which a large external band (architrave and uprights), sculpted without interruption with a large number of human and animal figures, frames doors thickly decorated and divided into various areas by elaborate geometric motifs.