Aleksanyan, Margarit

Writer, Illustrator

(1838‑1902)

Margarit Aleksanyan is one of the last representatives of the tradition of Armenian writer‑decorators.

She was born and lived her entire life in Shushi (Karabagh). Her father, Umri‑bek Ohanyan, sent her to the regional Elisabeth Sargssyan home school to learn grammar and crafts. Margarit showed incredible talent and skill, especially in handwork. However, she didn’t graduate from this school.

At the age of 13 she was married to Petros Aleksanyan, who enjoyed literature and the arts and did not object to his wife’s interests. Margarit continued practicing handicrafts and gradually focused on illustrations in Armenian manuscripts. She was deeply impressed by the ornaments of Tatev monastery and the manuscripts in the Scriptorium at the monastery.

Aleksanyan’s first work was a decorative album, which she sent to Venice in 1861 to be published. However it wasn’t published because of a lack of funding. The owner of the publishing house, At. Yeremyan, wrote the following to the author: “This is truly a beautiful and creative work of amazing and talented hands, for which we are very pleased and happy for you.” In 1868 she sent another album to Venice to the Mekhitarians, titled  Haykakan Gerghagrutsyun (Armenian Pictorial). The album was published in 1891 in Tiflis, a copy of which is currently preserved in the Armenian Manuscript Library with the inscription “A gift to A. Yeritsyan.”

A remarkable piece of Aleksanyan’s art is the Bible preserved in the museum of the Echmidzin Cathedral, which was mentioned with admiration by a number of her contemporaries. The headings in the book are written in three languages: Armenian, Russian, and French. Each capital letter is ornamented with scenes of nature: flora and fauna. A special gold‑plated cover was made in Moscow for the Bible. It was exhibited for a week in Tiflis. In 1886 Aleksanyan gifted it to Echmiadsin through Tigran Nazaryan. From 1887 to 1890 Aleksanyan, having lost the sight of one eye, wrote and illustrated another Bible, which she gifted to her native city. The fate of this copy is unknown.

Margarit Aleksanyan was buried in the yard of St John Church in Shushi. Her gravestone carries the following epitaph: “Here lays the renowned writer and illustrator Margarit Aleksanyan.”

Prepared by the Central State Archives, Republic of Armenia

Bibliography:

Taraz monthly, 1902, No. 13

Literaturnaya Armeniya, 1962, No. 1

Hayastani Ashkhatavoruhi, 1968, No. 12