Armenian manuscript illuminator of the mid-13th century, and perhaps the most innovative artist of the middle ages. His known works consist of 7 signed manuscripts and 3 unsigned works which can be assigned to him with reasonable certainty, all written at his tutor's, the artist Yovhannes', monastery of Hromklay, in what was once the medieval Kingdom of Cilicia, between 1256-1268. Little is known about his personal life or background. His name is certainly not Armenian, and suggests that perhaps one of his parents may have been from the Latin west.
Armenian art at this time was the product of a remarkable convergence of various cultures, of native Armenian arts (based on older Parthian and Persian sources) mingling with Islamic, Gothic, Frankish, Northern Italian, Byzantine, and Classical styles. A painting of one of the four Evangelists could produce Mark, togate and seated in the style of the classical authors, with the Frankish Lamb of God and St. Jerome's Lion above him, on an oriental carpet, with a cell in the Byzantine mosaic tradition and Islamic spires in the background.
At this time too, the Benedictine and Franciscan orders came to the west, bringing their illuminations with them as a visual means of spreading the gospel to the Mongols on the eastern borders of the Crusader States. In T'oros Roslin, for the first time, do we see images common to their books, before this unknown to either Byzantine or Armenian art. The Lamb of God first appears, as does the hand of God and the dove as a major symbol of divine inspiration. The Franciscan emphasis on a fully human, humble Christ and saving redemption.
Roslin's style is the culmination of the Cilician period. The Armenian aristocratic tradition, with abundant wealth to fund manuscripts painted with thick, rich colours including deep purple and gold, and the cultural comfort to pay attention to and incorporate a wide array of foreign styles. His figures are tall and thin, highly stylized and stiff in dramatic poses with a marked emphasis on the hands.
In 1266, a succession of Mamluk raids on Cilicia forced the closure of the monastery at Hromklay, and thus Roslin's career there and several decades of manuscript production. The scriptorium finally re-opened in the following year, but no further important books were created there until its final closure in 1299. T'oros Roslin's career seems to have ended shortly thereafter; the last datable manuscript we have is from 1268, with a dedication page marking the celebration of a small victory over the Mamluks of Egypt.