For three intense weekends, twenty students spent their Friday afternoons and Saturdays in a class, Armenian Studies 121-“Armenian Miniature Painting.” Dr. Dickran Kouymjian, Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies at Fresno State and Director of the Armenian Studies Program, taught the course.
The class had many interesting discussions about Armenian painting. Students learned that the themes of Armenian miniature painting were based on the Bible, especially on the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Students had the opportunity to see many of the scenes portrayed in the four gospels, including The Resurrection of Jesus, The Annunciation of Jesus, The Adoration of the Magi, and a personal favorite, The Nativity. One of the best parts of the course was when students were able to compare the same scenes in various manuscripts. Although the scenes were iconographically similar, they were at times portrayed differently.
Students also enjoyed the class in part because they had the opportunity to discuss class topics in an on-line chat room. Dr. Kouymjian said that he used this year’s course in Armenian painting, as well as an Armenian Studies 20 course, as experiments towards presenting at least one course completely on-line starting next academic year. To help in this process, the Armenian Studies Program web site will be partially redesigned and the architecture and miniature painting sections will be enhanced.
When asked what was his favorite part of the class, Dr. Kouymjian said, “As always, the pleasure I get from seeing students learn how to identify miniatures of the Life of Christ and how to describe the important elements in each based on the gospel text.”
Though I have taken many Armenian studies courses and am myself an Armenian-Christian, I am continually fascinated at the depth to which the Armenian arts, namely, painting, manuscript illumination, and architecture, were so influenced by Christianity.
It seems that overall, everyone enjoyed the class and learned a lot about Armenian painting. “I enjoyed Dr. Kouymjian’s class, and I would definitely take another class with him,” said Nyrie Karkazian.