(active 6th century in Bawit)

Cupola decoration

6th century
Mural painting
Coptic Museum, Cairo

The picture shows the wall paintings from the cupola of the chapel apse of one of the buildings in the monastery complex at Bawit.

Bawit is the site on the west bank of the River Nile, c. 16 km west of Daryut in the province of Asyut, Egypt. A large monastery with rich sculptural and painted decoration originally lay in the desert 1 km to the west. According to tradition it was founded by the monk Apollo in the late 4th century AD and was inhabited until the late 12th century. The monastery consisted of an enclosed nucleus with other buildings outside the walls, although it is not known how much of the site was occupied at any given time. Within the enclosed area were two churches.

Although some painted decoration was employed in the churches, most occurred on the plastered walls of the monastery's other mud-brick buildings, including geometric and foliate designs, hunting scenes and pagan figures, such as Eros and Orpheus. Most of the paintings, however, are Christian in content, often depicting monks and warrior-saints.

Painted representations of Old Testament themes, including scenes from the Life of David, and scenes incorporating Christ and the Virgin survive from the ground-floor chapels of several of the two-storey buildings. The cupolas of the chapel apses commonly show the enthroned Christ in the upper register, while the lower register usually has the Virgin, sometimes holding the Child, accompanied by Apostles, monks or archangels. The present picture shos an example.

Ancient Egyptian, Hellenistic, Late Antique, early Byzantine and Sasanian influences can all be detected in the paintings. Although their dates of production remain uncertain, most can probably be attributed to the period between the 6th and 8th centuries AD.