An important legal settlement has been reached between the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the American branch of an Armenian Church. The dispute, which had dragged on for a number of years, involved eight illustrated manuscript pages that had once been part of the Zeyt’un Gospels but which had been separated from the rest of the book during the Armenian genocide of 1915-1917. The Getty had bought the pages, which form the brightly illustrated table of contents to the book, from an Armenian-American family in 1994. The remaining pages of the Gospels are kept in Armenia.
The deal involves a recognition by the Getty of the Armenian Church’s continued ownership of the eight pages, in exchange for a promised donation of the pages by the Church to the Getty in January 2016. The Getty will also pay the Church’s past legal costs. It was recognised by the Church that the Getty would be an appropriate place to house the manuscripts, seeing as it has a first-rate conservation centre and access to a large pool of visitors (including many Armenian-Americans).
There are hopes too that this resolution will bring about a closer working relationship between the Getty and Armenia as a whole in regards to preserving and caring for objects of Armenian heritage. And perhaps most interestingly, there are talks of bringing the entirety of the Zeyt’un Gospels together. This would be the first reconstitution of the book in nearly a hundred years. If it goes ahead, the complete work would be shown in both Armenia and at the Getty. Here’s hoping the recent settlement will forge a path towards these enticing possibilities.
Photo: One of the index pages from the Zeyt’un Gospels (J Paul Getty Museum).