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The Four Gospels in Arabic and Latin. Showing the Gospel According to John. Printed at the Typographia Medicea (Medici Oriental Press) in Rome.

The Typographia Medicea was founded in 1584 by Ferdinando de’ Medici for the purpose of printing Christian texts in Middle Eastern languages, including Arabic, Turkish, and Syriac. These engravings are attributed to Italian engraver Leonardo Parasole (ca. 1570–1630), after designs by Antonio Tempesta (1555–1630). The Medici family dynasty dominated Florence from the 15th through the 18th century. Ferdinando (1548 – 1609) seceded his older brother as Grand Duke of Tuscany, a position which gave him great influence in the religious and cultural life of Florence. He was a participant in the Papal conclave of 1572, funded a number of artisan workshops, and continued the development of the Port of Livorno to encourage trade.

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Here the artist has chosen to depict the moment where Jesus says “One of you shall betray me.” Christ is positioned at the center of the table with six apostles on each side. He raises one hand in speech, and rests the other upon the “Beloved Apostle,” who lies in front of Christ with closed eyes. On the table before them is the Paschal lamb. According to the synoptic Gospels Jesus died on the day before Passover, when the Passover meal was being prepared. The depiction of the lamb alludes to the sacrificial death of Christ. The reaction to Christ’s announcement is clearly depicted in the faces and gestures of the apostles. The apostle to the left holds his hand to his chest in astonishment. Behind him, three apostles are turned towards one another in conference. Judas is grasping the purse in his right hand; his face is stern but seems to show alarm. He is the only apostle who is not depicted with a halo.


Artwork in the public domain