The Getty Museum will keep eight illustrated pages from a 750-year-old Armenian Bible after settling a long-running lawsuit brought by an American branch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, it was announced Monday.
Under the settlement, the Getty acknowledged the Armenian Apostolic Church’s ownership of the colorful, handwritten 13th-century manuscript pages.
In recognition of the museum’s decades-long stewardship of the pages — called the Canon Tables — and its appreciation of Armenian art, the church donated the pages to the Getty to ensure their preservation and widespread exhibition, according to the joint announcement.
The church said the pages had been ripped from the rest of the book, called the Zeyt’un gospels, amid the Armenian genocide during World War I. “This is a momentous occasion for the Armenian people, coming at a historic time, on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide,” said church attorney Lee Boyd.
“I want to thank the Getty for joining in a solution that recognizes the historical suffering of the Armenian people and that will also allow this Armenian treasure to remain in the museum which has cared for it and made it available to the Armenian and larger community in Los Angeles,” Boyd said.
“We are pleased that both sides arrived at an amicable solution,” she added. “The sacred Canon Tables are now being recognized as having belonged to the Armenian Church.”
Boyd said previously that the Getty had failed to investigate the ownership history of the pages when the museum bought them from Armenian American heirs of a man the church says stole the pages in 1916.
“That the pages were saved from destruction and conserved in a museum all these years means that these irreplaceable representations of Armenia’s rich artistic heritage have been and will be preserved for future generations,” said Timothy Potts, director of the Getty Museum.
“This is a creative and mutually beneficial solution that recognizes the importance of preserving such works for devotion, study, and enjoyment, while also acknowledging the tragic circumstances under which the pages were removed,” he said.
“We are honored by the church’s decision to donate the Canon Tables to the Getty Museum, allowing us to continue to care for the leaves and to make them available for research, study and exhibition. This is a gift to all the people of Los Angeles and the millions of visitors who come to our museum every year.”
Southern California is home to the largest Armenian community in the world outside of Armenia.
— Wire reports