Hagop Hovnatanian, known as “the Rafael of Tiflis,” was the great-great-grandson of Naghash Hovnatanian, the artist who painted the interior of the Holy Etchmiadzin cathedral at the end of the 17th century. The works of Hagop Hovnatanian are an amazing combination of both ancient and modern. He received no professional education, studying under his father. Hovnatanian’s works are related to the aesthetic concepts of this time.
Only a small part of Hagop Hovnatanian’s work has survived. The life of the artist is almost unknown to us, and a veil of mystery covers his portraits. The main sources for Hovnatanian’s artistic approach and his pictorial language were the traditions of the mediaeval Armenian manuscript illumination and folk art. Absorbing and interpreting these traditions in his own fashion, Hovnatanian took national painting to classical heights, securing himself the fame of the last mediaeval and the first modern Armenian artist.