Tetra-Gospel book, Constantinople, 12th century

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Ms Grec 189, fol. 206v

Unlike changing Western traditions, the Byzantine image of the Evangelist Luke sitting at his desk was invariably retained, right from the seventh century, even beyond the period of iconoclasm during the eighth and ninth centuries, when figurative depictions were forbidden by reason of image worship. The tradition of this old type of presentation was inherited as a fixed, integral part of Byzantine iconography up to the paintings of the monks of Mount Athos. The Western attributes of the Evangelists, common in Western art ever since the 5th century, were not taken over by Eastern art.

An extensive, luminous golden background -as introduced in Byzantine book illumination in place of the descriptive landscapes during the second half of the 10th century – not only emphasizes the preciousness of the miniature but also symbolizes the sphere of enlightenment and divine inspiration.