Film Screening of ‘Portrait of a Quest’ and discussion with Ekaterina Dimitrova over a glass of wine
11th May 2017, 19:00, Sofia Gallery, London
‘Portrait of a Quest’ is a 22- minute documentary of Ekaterina Dimitrova on the art and history of the 14thc. Bulgarian Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander, provenance: The British Library, written directed and presented by E. Dimitrova. The production of the documentary was made possible with the kind support of the State Cultural Institute of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Odysseya-in Agency, and the kind collaboration of the British Library.
Commissioned in 1355 for the then ruler of Bulgaria – Tsar Ivan Alexander, the manuscript was written in just one year by a single scribe, Simon, and illuminated by anonymous monks-artists of the Turnovo school, the Bulgarian capital and ecclesiastic centre of the time.
It comprises of 286 quarto format velum folios and has a magnificent appearance in its original crimson leather binding.
Over the folios alongside the Cyrillic texts of the Four Gospels are positioned 367 frieze miniatures, illustrating the story of Christ and his disciples. The extraordinary value of this manuscript comes not only from the immense number of illuminations, but especially – from their outstanding artistic standard and comprehensive stylistics. Indeed – along with the ecclesiastic style of the Comnenian period is found the minimal approach of the archaic time, while an innovative hand has left for prosperity some remarkable renaissance images.
It all comes to testify for the dedication and the absorbing mind-process behind the creation of a masterpiece. The Gospel of Tsar Ivan Alexander is such universal masterpiece.
Robert Curzon, an Oxford student of the letters, who found the manuscript on Mount Athos in 1837, after its previous survival journey through Moldova, is the first to have expressed an exalted opinion on its profound artistic significance for the European cultural heritage:
“The book is altogether one of the most curious monuments of bygone days to be found in any library in Europe”
Furthermore, Curzon also fixed its place within the world of antiquities:
“The manuscript was quite full of illuminations from beginning to end. I had seen to book like it anywhere in the Levant”
Today, 660 years after its creation, now a supreme antique monument, still in its original binding, fully preserved, delivering the finest standards of its time, the Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander stands as a crowning achievement, and sublime symbol of the final flourishing of the Bulgarian Mediaeval culture.
Ekaterina Dimitrova is an MA graduate in Philology and Philosophy from the University of Sofia, Diploma holder in Sanskrit from the University of Delhi and a qualified TEFL of UK tutor and translator. At present she is working on her PhD theses on comparative linguistics that includes Sanskrit, Bulgarian and English.
Dimitrova has thought researched and published on Bulgarian Language and culture at Universities of Sofia, Delhi and London and is a member of the Slavonic and East European Medieval Studies Group UK.
She has worked as a contributor to the cultural program of the Bulgarian Section of the BBC World Service and as a senior lecturer in English at NSA.
Dimitrova is author of the Monograph “The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander”, published by The British Library in 1994 in their representative series Manuscripts in Color, and later acknowledged by Questia digital library at position 9 in their classification 16 of the Best Publications on Illuminated Manuscripts.
Dimitrova’s contribution to the popularization of the medieval heritage comprises of two documentaries: Portrait of a Quest – dedicated to The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander, provenance: the British Library, and Meanders of History – dedicated to The Chronicle of Manasees, provenance: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.
She has written a script about the third emblematic 14thc. Bulgarian book – the Tomic Psalter, provenance: Moscow National Museum, and is aiming at making it into a documentary, thus completing the collection of the Turnovo school’s iconic manuscripts.