A magnificent miniature gothic illuminated psalter
10 PsalterIlluminiated manuscript on vellum. Southern Netherlands (Bruges?), c. 1280.
89 x 62 mm. 267 leaves: I4+2, II3+2+3, III-IV12,V6+6+1,VI12,VII6+1+6,VIII12, IX6+1+6,X6+6+1,XI12, XII10, XIII2+1+6+6, XIV6+6+1,XV-XXII12+1, XXIII6 (miniatures on inserted leaves). Before fol. 189 lacking a full-page miniature facing the opening of Ps 109.Traces of numerical quire signatures and two sequences of leaf signatures beginning again on quire XV. – Written space 57 x 32 mm, 19 lines of text.Written in a small gothic bookhand in dark brown ink, ruled in plummet, no rubrics, some calendar entries in red. Laid out in verse format, with a vertical column up to the left-hand edge of the text block enclosing for each verse initials in burnished gold with contrasting infill of blue and pink, beginning from three-line initials with three-sided border consisting of penwork in red and blue, dragons and/or coloured faces on burnished gold, line fillers of the same design. 13 full-page miniatures, 8 large historiated initials, 12 calendar miniatures, 31 small historiated initials, over 100 marginal and bas-de-page scenes and vignettes. – Some wear, some early additions and corrections to the text, leaves at ends thumbed with rubbing and flaking of illumination, upper extremities of marginal extensions sometimes fractionally cropped, a few margins slightly defective, some stains and other signs of use, generally sound with illumination mostly fresh and bright. – Late 16th- or early 17th-century dark brown calf over pasteboards, gilt frame borders, small central oval placques of the Crucifixion gilt, paper endleaves, decorated metal clasps and catches. Binding worn, rebacked. In a 19th-century card slipcase.
PROVENANCE:1. On fol. 15 the arms of Gui de Dampierre (1225-1305), count of Flanders from 1278. On fol. 41 the arms of his son Robert de Béthune (1247-1322). The manuscript must therefore have been illuminated for Gui de Dampierre or his wife, Isabelle de Luxembourg (1244- 1298), or for a member of their family or immediate circle. 2. Medieval inscriptions inside the covers. A 19th-century note in French on the flyleaf suggests that the book belonged to the children of Jean sans Peur in the 15th century. It was, however, then still in Flanders. 3. 19th-century note on the box “Caroline Comtesse de Stolberg Stolberg recu de Mon oncle le Comte T. Bte. De Robiano”. Caroline (1826-1882), countess of Robiano married in 1851 Joseph Theodore, Graf zu Stolberg-Stolberg. 4. Now: Private collection, Europe.
TEXT:fol. 1-6v: Calendar, for the diocese of Tournai – fol. 7-8: blank – fol. 8v-13v: full-page miniatures – fol. 14v-240v: Psalter – fol. 240-261: Canticles and Athanasian Creed – fol. 261v-264v: Litany – fol. 264v-266v: prayers – fol. 267 blank.
ILLUMINATION: Calendar miniatures: fol. 1: Nobleman feasting – fol. 1v: Candlemass – fol. 2: Pruning trees – fol. 2v: Two lovers – fol. 3: Lovers hunting – fol. 3v: Peasant carrying staves – fol. 4: Mowing grass – fol. 4v: Harvesting – fol. 5: Sowing – fol. 5v:Wine harvest – fol. 6: Swineherds – fol. 6v: Butcher killing an ox.
Full-page miniatures: fol. 8v: Annunciation and Visitation – fol. 9v Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds – fol. 10v: Adoration of the Magi and Massacre of the Innocents – fol. 11v: Flight into Egypt and Presentation – fol. 12v:Washing of the Disciple’s Feet and Bribing of Judas – fol. 13v: Last Supper and Betrayal – fol. 14: (historiated initial ‘B’) David playing the viol and David beheading Goliath – fol. 47: Christ before Pilate and Scourging – fol. 69v: Christ carrying the Cross and Crucifixion – fol. 91v: Deposition and Entombment – fol. 113v: Harrowing of Hell and Resurrection – fol. 139v: Noli me tangere and Doubting St Thomas – fol. 163v: Ascension and Pentecost. Historiated initials: fol. 46v: Beheading of a saint – fol. 69v: Beheading of St John the Baptist – fol. 90: Martyrdom of St Lawrence – fol. 92: Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist – fol. 114: St Margaret – fol. 140: St Nicholas giving doweries to three maidens, as their father sleeps in bed – fol. 164: Flaying of St Bartholomew – fol. 189: St Stephen. The earliest books attributable to Bruges are a group of psalters with miniatures of the apostles at each of the Psalm divisions (cf. Haseloff 1936, pp. 65-7, 120-21; Randall 1974, pp. 171-91; Randall 1997, no. 217). These date from about 1265-70 and are all relatively austere and probably monastic in origin but suddenly, around 1275, the production of psalters in Bruges is transformed, leading to a highpoint of splendour. This is probably due to the patronage of the family of Gui de Dampierre, count of Flanders, likely patron of the present manuscript. A second manuscript, extremely close to this psalter and perhaps by the same artist, is the so-called Psalter of Gui de Dampierre which may have been made either in St-Omer or Bruges (Brussels, BR, ms. 10607, cf. Gaspar/Lyna 1947, pp. 219-28, pl. XLV; Stijns 1953, pp. 85-94; exh. cat. Brussels 1981, pp. 144-58; Smeyers 1998, pp. 136-45; exh. cat. Leuven 2002, no. 37). Around these two books is a further clutch of richly illuminated Psalters, including Dublin, Chester Beatty Library, ms. 61; London, BL, Burney 345; Oxford, Bodl. Lib., Auct. D.4.2; and New York, ML, M 72 (cf. Oliver 1988, passim), all probably attributable to Bruges. There are close stylistic links too with the Bible of Ter Doest (Bruges, Groot Seminaire, 4/1 and 5/191). The style of the psalters includes the use of elaborate architectural settings, brilliant colours and highly burnished gold, and borders filled with whimsical creatures and grotesques. Many of the group possess almost exact parallels with our psalter, including, for example, the Harrowing of Hell (fol. 113v) in the Oxford manuscript (cf. Pächt/Alexander 1966, pl. XXI, no. 285); and the Noli me tangere and Incredulity of St Thomas (fol. 139v) in the Psalter of Gui de Dampierre (Gaspar/Lyna 1947, pl. XLV). Similar iconography occurs too in the choice of scenes from the lives of saints in the historiated initials. Where the psalter at hand is exceptional, however, is in the complexity of its miniatures. Uniquely in this group, its full-page miniatures are on two tiers, doubling the cycle of scenes.When this lavishness of full-page illustration encounters the infinitely varied repertoire of small illumination imported from western Flanders, the result is a psalter of unique complexity and unparalleled richness.
LITERATURE:The manuscript is hitherto unpublished. Haseloff 1936; Gaspar/Lyna 1947; Stijns 1953, pp. 85-94; Pächt/Alexander 1966, pl. XXI, no. 285; Randall 1974, p. 171-191; exh. cat. Brussels 1981, pp. 144-58; Oliver 1988; Randall 1997, no. 217; Smeyers 1998, pp. 136-45; exh. cat. Leuven 2002, no. 37.