The Ethiopian Christian tradition stretches back into remote ages. The surviving early records of Christian content date back to the 2nd – 9th centuries AD. From the early 4th century AD, Christianity was becoming the state religion in Ethiopia. Monasteries and temples on the Ethiopian Plateau keep many volumes of manuscripts, and their walls are painted with images of the Lord and His Son Jesus, presenting a history of the world according to the Holy Writ. The tradition of icon painting on wooden boards is also known to the Ethiopians, with the earliest surviving diptychs and triptychs dated the 1st half of the 15th century.
The paintings on Christian subjects were collected by Alexander Kochanovsky, doctor of the diplomatic mission in the Ethiopian Empire in the early 20th century, and donated to the Museum by him in 1913. At that time, the Ethiopian market already knew European products, and paints in particular. However, the plot remained unchanged. The collection presents both rare subjects typical for early Christianity – Tale of Barlaam and Josaphat, or St. Menas and St. Sisinnius on horseback – and commonly popular images like St. George slaying the dragon or Our Lady with the child Jesus Christ. Bright color and abundance of ethnographic detail make the pictures from Kochanovsky’s collection a source on Ethiopian culture.