Christian Works : Moore Psalter

Christian Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'> Cambridge University Library MS Ee.4.24, sometimes known as the <i>Moore Psalter</i> (<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='#Peterson2004'>Peterson, 2004)</a>, principally comprises a fully-illustrated text of the Psalter (fols <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(15);return false;'>6r-35v</a>) dated c.1280. In addition, the manuscript contains an incomplete Kalendar (fols <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(5);return false;'>1r-3v</a>), showing only the months of March, April, September, October, November and December, and thirteen Cantica (fols <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(74);return false;'>35v-38v</a>), which, due to the missing last leaf of the manuscript, are also incomplete. </p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>Significant due to the extent and nature of its illustrative programme, the manuscript contains copious decoration, including historiated initials, line fillers and border decoration. Each month of the Kalendar is provided with two miniatures, one showing the occupation of the month and the other the signs of the zodiac. Each psalm, likewise, has been given a dedicated illustration depicting some aspect of the psalm text’s meaning, except for the psalms beginning the seven Nocturnes, which show instead enlarged scenes from the Life of David (see, for instance, the initial showing David and Goliath on folio <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(15);return false;'>6r</a> of the manuscript). An index for the illustrations, possibly contemporary with the manuscript and describing the subject of each miniature in Norman French, has been appended to the codex between the Kalendar and the beginning of the Psalms on folios <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(12);return false;'>4v-5v</a>. Throughout the manuscript, there is elaborate marginal and interlinear decoration, comprising birds, animals, fish and hybrid humans and beasts, as, for instance, on folio <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(65);return false;'>31r</a>. </p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>Since the work of Samuel Berger in the nineteenth century, the manuscript has traditionally been discussed as one of a group of French illuminated psalters comprising comprehensive illustrations for each psalm together with explanatory inscriptions. This group, which scholars have added to and subtracted from in subsequent revisions of the corpus, contains, in the most recent discussion of the group (<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='#Peterson2004'>Peterson, 2004)</a>, the following manuscripts alongside CUL MS Ee.4.24: <div> La charité Psalter (<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=8623'>London, British Library, Harley MS 2895</a>), c. 1180 <br /> Jeanne de Navarre Psalter (Manchester, John Rylands University Library, MS Latin 22), c. 1180 <br /> de la Morliere Psalter (St. Petersburg, Russian National Library, MS Latin Q. v. I. 67), c. 1220 <br /> Lewis Psalter (<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='https://libwww.freelibrary.org/diglib/SearchItem.cfm?searchKey=1767678491&ItemID=mca1850290'> Philadelphia Free Library, Lewis Collection, European MS 185</a>), c. 1230 <br /> Bute Psalter (<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/1528/bute-master-workshop-of-the-passion-master-bute-psalter-french-illumination-about-1270-1280-written-about-135-1375/'>Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, MS 46</a>), c. 1285 <br /> Amiens Psalter (<a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href='http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b9066747n'>Paris, Biblothèque nationale de France, MS latin 10435</a>), c. 1295 <br /> </div><br /> </p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>The precise nature of the relationship between each of the manuscripts in the group remains unclear, though it seems unlikely that the similarities between each manuscript’s iconography and the accompanying rubrics point to a model-copy relationship (Peterson, 1987). Neither, as the Moore Psalter’s separate index of iconography would indicate, does it seem likely that the inscriptions were designed as instructions for the artist of the manuscript. Subtle differences of detail between each psalter’s illumination, and, in the case of CUL MS Ee.4.24, occasional misunderstandings of the psalm text, suggest that the details of each illumination were left to the discretion of the artist, resulting in idiosyncrasies of iconography that make for unique visual interpretations of the Psalter. Thus, the illumination accompanying Psalm 25, traditionally represented by an eagle flying into a fountain to renew its youth, shows instead a flying angel, a change of subject possibly prompted by the artist’s misreading of angle for aigle in the Norman-French rubric (see folio <a href='' onclick='store.loadPage(23);return false;'>10r</a>). </p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>Despite the manuscript’s relationship to other psalters in the group, and its occasional pictorial peculiarities, it is an impressive codex in its own right, characterised by innovative visual interpretations of the psalms; intricate decorative details, and a lavish use of colour and gold leaf. Its ownership by two great bibliophiles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Sir Thomas Knyvett and John Moore, suggests that it has long been valued as an example of a high-status illuminated psalter, presenting, as it does, an unusually fulsome cycle of psalmic iconography.</p> <p style='text-align: justify;'>Elizabeth Wright, University of York</p>

 


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