Being Armenian in Istanbul Today. Lecture by Christopher Sheklian.

2017-11 ConstantinopleAnthropologist and Armenian Deacon Dr. Christopher Sheklian will deliver a lecture at the Zohrab Center on Tuesday, November 7 at 7PM entitled, Sharagans in the City: Being Armenian in Istanbul Today.

Armenians in Istanbul today navigate a city that is undeniably their home, yet often feels exclusionary. People rarely speak Armenian on the street and many of the churches are hidden behind high walls. Yet the Armenians living there do not necessarily feel excluded or discriminated 2017-11 SheklianSharagan.001against. “Bolis” is their home, and they feel a sense of belonging there.

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Dr. Sheklian will discuss the complicated sense of belonging that Armenians feel toward Istanbul and toward Turkey. He suggests that the inheritance of the Armenian Apostolic Church’s liturgy helps many Armenians to navigate the city. Through constant exposure to Armenian sharagans and other hymns, Armenians are able to hear the soundscape of Istanbul as one where they also belong.

Christopher Sheklian, a native of central California, earned his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2017. His dissertation, entitled, Theology and the Community: The Armenian Minority, Tradition, and Secularism in Turkey, was based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork with Armenians in Istanbul. An ordained deacon of the Armenian Church, Dr. Sheklian spent a year as a student and researcher at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary in New York. He previously attended the University of California, Berkeley where he majored in Anthropology, and he worked as a substitute

Chris Head Shot 1B
Anthropologist and ordained deacon of the Armenian Church Dr. Christopher Sheklian will speak about how the Armenian Church and especially its sacred music affords a sense of belonging to Armenians of Istanbul.

teacher before earning his MA and PhD at Chicago.

This year, Dr. Sheklian is a Manoogian Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Michigan, where he plans to develop the conceptual apparatus of his dissertation by considering the connections between Christology, semiotics, and hermeneutics and to pursue a second ethnographic project with Armenian refugees from Syria and Iraq living in the greater Detroit area.

The lecture at the Zohrab Center will take place in the Guild Hall of the Armenian Diocese in New York. The event is free and open to the public. As always, a reception and conversation will follow the lecture.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

The Gardens of Silihadar. Book Presentation by Jennifer Manoukian on Tuesday, May 6

2014-04 SilihdarThe Zohrab Center will host a book presentation by Jennifer Manoukian, whose new, English translation of the autobiography of Zabel Yessayan entitled, The Gardens of Silihdar, has just been published. The event is being co-sponsored by the Armenian Network of America Greater New York Region.

The presentation will take place on Tuesday, May 6 at 2014 at 7PM at the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York.

Author, educator and social activist Zabel Yessayan (1878-1943) is today recognized as one of the greatest writers in Western Armenian literature. Her poignant 1935 autobiography displays the fierce determination of an Ottoman era Armenian intellectual who refused to accept the restrictions placed on women in Ottoman Turkey, and affords a vivid account of Armenian community life in Constantinople at the end of the nineteenth century.

Jennifer Manoukian, an authority on the writings of Zabel Yessayan, will present her newly-published English translation of Yessayan's autobiography at the ZIC
Jennifer Manoukian, an authority on the writings of Zabel Yessayan, will present her newly-published English translation of Yessayan’s autobiography at the ZIC

Jennifer Manoukian, is a graduate of Rutger’s University and a former Zohrab Center intern. She is an accomplished translator and an authority on the writings of Yessayan. She recently published a translation of an essay by the 19th-century novelist Srpouhi Dussap (née Vahanian) entitled, Women’s Inactivitywhich addresses social struggles particular to Armenian women.

At her Zohrab presentation Manoukian will present The Gardens of Silihdar, and introduce the life and work of Zabel Yessayan, a bold, one-of-a-kind figure in Western Armenian literature. The presentation is free and open to the public. A wine and cheese reception will follow, during which attendees may purchase the book.

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In her long and eventful life, Zabel Yessayan never strayed from her beliefs, despite often facing both governmental and social pressures. Continue reading “The Gardens of Silihadar. Book Presentation by Jennifer Manoukian on Tuesday, May 6”

What Is Dutch Art Doing in Early Armenian Printed Books? Dr. Sylvie Merian to Present the Case at ZIC on April 9

"Tree of Life" Dutch woodcut print dated 1646 by Christoffel van Sichem. Note the monogram "CvS" in the lower left corner.
“Tree of Life” Dutch woodcut print dated 1646 by Christoffel van Sichem. Note the monogram “CvS” in the lower left corner.

Noted art historian Dr. Sylvie Merian of The Morgan Library in New York will speak at the Zohrab Center on Wednesday, April 9 at 7PM on the topic, Dutch Woodcut Art in the Earliest Armenian Printed Books: A Book Detective Unravels the Mysteries.

Dr. Merian has been researching early Armenian books printed in Constantinople in the Zohrab Information Center’s rich rare book collection, especially focusing on woodcut illustrations in religious books produced by Armenian artists. (Click here for a recent exposé of her research on this blog).

Many of the compositions for these illustrations were modeled after western European prints that found their way to Ottoman Turkey and Savafid Iran during the 17-18th centuries in richly-illustrated books printed in Armenian, Latin, and other European languages.

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"Tree of Life" as found in an Armenian Sharagnots-Hymnal published in Constantinople in 1742. Note the monogram ԳՄ of the Armenian artists in the lower right corner.
“Tree of Life” adapted from the original Dutch version, found in an Armenian Sharagnots-Hymnal published in Constantinople in 1742. Note the ԳՐ in the lower left corner, the monogram of the Armenian artist and printer Grigor Marzuanetsi. The Armenian Hymnal is from the Zohrab Center’s Rare Book Collect

Through countless hours of what she calls “book-looking,” Merian has identified many of the exact prints used by Armenian artists as models. Many of these were Dutch woodcuts.

The illustrations provided inspiration not only for Armenian woodcut artists, but also for Armenian silversmiths (who used them as imagery for silver plaques used on religious books), manuscript artists, and even painters of wall paintings in churches of New Julfa, an Armenian suburb of Isfahan, Iran. New Christian iconography and decorative motifs were thereby disseminated in various media throughout the region, and a number of examples have been found in the Zohrab Center’s remarkable early book collection.

Dr. Merian will show numerous examples from the orginal European illustrations, the adapted versions by Armenian artists, and their later adoption for use in non-book media.

The presentation will take place at the Armenian Diocese, 630 Second Avenue, New York, NY. A discussion and reception will follow. For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

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Precious Paper Trail Leads from ZIC to Constantinople to Holland and Beyond…

Armenian art historian Dr. Sylvie Merian examines woodcut prints in an 18th century Armenian hymnal from the Zohrab Center's collection of rare books.
Armenian art historian Dr. Sylvie Merian examines woodcut prints in an 18th century Armenian hymnal (Sharagnots) from the Zohrab Center’s collection of rare books.

The Zohrab Center has seen a good deal of noted Armenian art historian Dr. Sylvie Merian in recent weeks. In preparation for an academic conference paper, the scholar has been paging through some of the Zohrab Center’s most precious rare books.

She tenderly turns the pages searching for woodcut illustrations printed in Armenian religious books, most of them printed in Constantinople. “There’s another one!” she calls out, pointing to an intricate, full-page illustration featuring biblical images and saints with remarkably detailed facial expressions.

The woodcuts that were produced by Armenian artists in Constantinople are exceptional because many of the compositions for these illustrations were actually closely modeled after western European prints, especially Dutch. The ever-cosmopolitan Armenian artisans became familiar with the designs through the many books printed in Latin, various European languages, and Armenian, which contained them as illustrations. Many such printed books found their way to Armenian communities in Ottoman Turkey and Safavid Iran in the 17th to 18th centuries.

SylvieMerian2Dr. Merian has discovered dozens of Dutch-inspired Armenian woodcut illustrations in the ZIC’s rare book collection. Often she can even identify the Dutch artist whose work lies in the background of the Armenian print.

But the illustrations inspired more than just woodcut artists. Armenian silversmiths from Kayseri adapted the European designs as imagery for silver plaques used on religious books. Similar images in Armenian manuscript illuminations—which continued to be produced up to the early 19th century in the Near East—and even wall paintings in churches of New Julfa (an Armenian suburb of Isfahan, Iran) are abiding proof of the Armenians’ fascination with the European styles and their openness to adopt and adapt them. In this way, new Christian iconography and decorative motifs were disseminated in various media throughout the region—

—as the Zohrab Center’s remarkable early book collection demonstrates.

Sylvie Merian is Reader Services Librarian at at The Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. She received her PhD in Armenian Studies from Columbia University’s Department of Middle East Languages and Cultures, writing her dissertation on Armenian bookbinding. She has published and lectured internationally on Armenian codicology, bookbinding, and manuscript illumination, as well as on the history of the book.

Dr. Merian will present an illustrated lecture on her woodcut research at the Zohrab Information Center on Wednesday, April 9 at 7:00PM.

In Memory of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian

Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, former Primate of the Armenian Church of America.
Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, former Primate of the Armenian Church of America.

This week will mark the 80th anniversary of the tragic death of Archbishop Ghevont Tourian, who was martyred at Holy Cross Church of Armenia in New York on December 24, 1933.

Tourian Srpazan was one of the intellectual and spiritual giants among the clergy of the Armenian Church in modern times. Born in Constantinople in 1879, he was a graduate of the renowned Seminary of Armash outside the imperial capital. There he studied from 1898-1902 under the tutelage of his elder cousin Archbishop Yeghishé Tourian, who would later become Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Autographed inscription by "Ghevont Vartabed Tourian" dated July 1, 1907 in the Zohrab Center's copy of the first volume of his book "Simple Sermons."
Autographed inscription by “Ghevont Vartabed Tourian” dated July 1, 1907 in the Zohrab Center’s copy of the first volume of his book “Simple Sermons.”

Consecrated priest and shortly thereafter bishop, Ghevont Srpazan served as the Archbishop of the Armenian Church of Smyrna, Bulgaria, Greece and Manchester, England. He also served as the personal secretary of yet another prominent Armenian churchman and past dean of the Armash Seminary, Patriarch Maghakia Ormanian of Constantinople. In 1931 he was elected Primate of the Armenian Church of America.

Tourian was an accomplished writer and orator. Many of his sermons and speeches were published during his lifetime in a multi-volume collection entitled Պարզ քարոզներ [Simple Sermons]. The Zohrab Center’s library holds copies of all of his books.

One of them is Volume 1 of this series, which contains an autographed inscription by Archbishop Tourian which reads:

To the most noble and radiant Mr. and Mrs. Gullabi Gulbenkian as a sign of respect and eternal remembrance. –Ghevont Vartabed Tourian. 1 July 1907.

Gullabi Gulbenkian was a Genocide orphan who became an affluent industrialist and philanthropist. Tourian inscribed the book to him just months after it was published in Constantinople, when he was still a young priest “Vartabed.”

A Christmas Sermon by the Young Tourian Vartabed

In a Christmas sermon that opens the volume, Archbishop Tourian quotes the words of King Herod: “Search diligently for the child” [Matthew 2:8]. Herod was threatened by the attention that the newborn Jesus was attracting. Exotic Magi had arrived from the East bearing gifts for the newborn, whom they were referring to as a king, and thus a potential rival to Herod’s throne. Herod ordered that the child be located so that he might worship him. But the devious King actually intended to destroy the child. Setting out from this scene, Tourian Srpazan gives a lesson in how one should diligently seek God today. CLICK HERE to read an English translation of this sermon.

Ghevont Srpazan’s books, as well as those of his elder cousins Yeghishé and Bedros, are available in the Zohrab Information Center for those interested in perusing them.

May the eternal memory of the just be blessed. Յաւիտենական յիշատակն արդարոց օրհնութեամբ եղիցի։

Czech-Armenian Musicologist to Lecture on the Armenian Sharagnots-Hymnal

2013-02 UtidjianMaestro Haig Utidjian, a professional orchestral and opera conductor, and choirmaster from Prague will present a lecture entitled, “Yeghia Dndesian and the Music of the Armenian Sharagnots-Hymnal” on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 8:00PM at the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs, 209-15 Horace Harding Expwy, Oakland Gardens, New York.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the Zohrab Center and Holy Martyrs Armenian Church; and has been subsidized by a research grant from the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University in Prague, VG180.

An unsung hero, the Constantinople-born musician Yeghia Dndesian (1834-1881) is a towering figure in 19th-century Armenian musicology. His largely neglected version of the Armenian Sharagnots-Hymnal, published posthumously in 1934, was one of the earliest efforts to transcribe Armenian Church melodies encoded in the ancient Armenian neumatic sysmbols known as khaz. Maestro Utidjian will examine this masterwork, analyzing Dndesian’s methods and making comparative observations based on the composer’s theoretical writings.

An ordained deacon of the Armenian Church and native of Cyprus, Maestro Utidjian has served as Music Director of the Chamber Orchestra of Sussex, the Ensemble Duparc, and the North Bohemian Chamber Orchestra, and also worked on a number of acclaimed productions at the Opera House in Liberec. He has guest-conducted in the UK, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Armenia and Cyprus.

All are welcome to attend the lecture, which is free of charge. A reception will follow.

For further information contact the Zohrab Center at zohrabcenter@armeniandiocese.org or (212) 686-0710.

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