A rare example of psalter illumination in Germany between Romanesque and Gothic
2 Psalter with calendar for the diocese of TrierIlluminated manuscript on vellum.
Germany,Trier, c. 1220-40.
134 x 106 mm. 136 leaves, complete: I4+1, II10, III-XII12.The text on the last leaf has been replaced presumably at the end of the 15th century when the manuscript was rebound. Modern pencil foliation. – Written space: 100 x 72 mm, 20 lines, ruled in brown ink, prickings visible.Textualis Formata in dark brown ink, versals alternately in red and blue. 160 mainly two-line initials in gold with penwork decoration, 47 of them accompanied by drawings of animals and grotesque faces. 10 decorative initials, 12 miniatures of the zodiac, 2 full-page miniatures, 14th-century pen-and-ink drawings on vellum pastedown of back cover. – On fol. 1, 4 and 6 small portions of the vellum missing. Miniatures slightly rubbed, vellum darkened by frequent use, yet on the whole in fine condition. – Wellpreserved late 15th or early 16th-century blind-tooled calf binding over wooden boards with two clasps. A rectangular frame of double fillets is filled with stamps of biblical scenes, the central panel is subdivided by double fillets into 6 compartments stamped with small tools: the pierced heart of Christ, a bundle of ears, a lion (used in the binding workshop of the Benedictine abbey of Gandersheim, Schunke 1979, p. 193:“Löwe” 200). Remnants of bookplate on inner front cover.
PROVENANCE: 1.A provenance from the diocese of Trier is implied by the calendar. On the shields of the soldiers in the Resurrection scene on fol. 4 traces of a coat-of-arms are visible, which, however, are not sufficiently detailed for an identification. 2. Late 15th or early 16th century: region of Gandersheim (cf. binding). 3. Note on a paper label by an 18th-century hand glued to the front cover: M.S.S. Roman Breviary with signs of zodiaque, Kalendar, ..., in gothic letter (partly stripped off in the right and lower margin). 4. Collection of Rudolf Busch, Mainz (Sale Rudolf Busch 1921, lot 255). 5. Private collection Europe.
TEXT: fol. 1-3v: Calendar,written in double columns – fol. 6-124: Psalter – fol. 124-136: Canticles. The calendar contains several entries for feasts of regional importance for the diocese of Trier: 12 February: Castor – 20 February: Felix – 23 and 24 February: Matthew – 27 February: Leander – 29 May: Maximin – 18 August: Agapitus – 12 September: Maximin – 5 October: Palmatius – 13 October: Lubentius – 17 October: Florentius – 5 (= 7) November:Willibrord – 8 December: Eucharius.
ILLUMINATION: 1. Miniatures: fol. 1-3v: Zodiacal signs – fol. 4v: Full-page miniature: Annunciation; Nativity – fol. 5: Full-page miniature: Crucifixion; Resurrection. 2. Decorative initials: fol. 6: 15-line ‘B’(eatus vir) – fol. 24: 7-line ‘D’(omine illuminatio mea) – fol. 35: 7-line ‘D’(ixi custodiam) – fol. 45v: 7-line ‘Q’(uid gloriaris) – fol. 46: 7-line ‘D’(ixit insipiens) – fol. 57: 7-line ‘S’(alvum me fac) – fol. 70v: 7-line ‘E’(xultate dei adiutori nostri) – fol. 83: 7-line ‘C’(antate domino) – fol. 85: 7-line ‘D’(omine exaudi) – fol. 97: 7-line ‘D’(ixit dominus). The small codex presents a fine decoration programme, which corresponds to the tradition of deluxe psalter manuscripts for high-ranking lay persons. Between the calendar with its zodiacal cycle and the text of the psalter a series of christological miniatures is inserted which directs the reader to the recitation of the psalms. Although the miniatures are rubbed in some portions, the fine modelling and the clear construction of the contours of the faces are still apparent. The text of the psalter is subdivided into ten groups of 15 psalms by large decorative initials.They are composed of intertwined tendrils ending in ivyleaves, rendered in a palette of blue green, orange, red and mauve on a burnished gold ground.The individual psalms are marked by two-line initials in gold with penwork decoration evolving into skilfully drawn grotesque faces and animals. Of similar structure and related in style is a psalter dating from the 1260s in Frankfurt/Main (Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Linel Sammlung, LM 16), which has been tentatively located to Franconia (Soltek 1991, no. 1, p. 32-33). Due to the rarity of surviving illuminated manuscripts from the first half of the 13th century a determination of the art-historical context is difficult. An approximate location is, however, indicated by the calendar with its numerous entries for the diocese of Trier. Hanns Swarzenski, who laid the basis for the study of manuscript illumination in the 13th century in the areas along the Rhine, Main and Danube, mentions only one manuscript, a breviary, with a calendar for Trier (Swarzenski 1936, no. 20, pp. 106-107). The manuscript, today in Stockholm (Nationalmuseum, ms. B 1926), can be dated around 1250 (Swarzenski 1930; Nordenfalk 1979; Abel/Hökby 1987, no. 12). Whilst nearly identical in size to our manuscript the Stockholm codex is more richly illuminated. In terms of style, too, the two manuscripts display fundamental differences. The Stockholm breviary with its angular drapery folds is typical of the jagged style (German ‘Zackenstil’) at its highest level, whereas nothing of this stylistic tendency can be found in our psalter. When comparing the zodiacal signs in both manuscripts, which are outlined with strong black strokes, richly coloured and obviously based on similar models, one can nevertheless ascertain stylistic parallels. To the above-mentioned manuscripts can be added another psalter in the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg (ms. in scrin. 83), which still awaits a detailed study.Although more luxuriously illuminated with seven full-page miniatures, its decoration displays conspicuous similarities to the psalter at hand with respect to the layout of the calendar pages (Brandis 1972, pp. 133-134). Claimed by Swarzenski to originate in the diocese of Trier, it is attributed, to Cologne or the surrounding area by Brandis, thus belonging to a closely related artistic climate.
LITERATURE: Sale Rudolf Busch 1921, lot 255. Swarzenski 1930; Swarzenski 1936, no. 20, pp. 106-107; Brandis 1972, pp. 133-134; Nordenfalk 1979, pp. 48-53; Schunke 1979;Abel/Hökby 1987, no. 12; Soltek 1991, no. 1, pp. 32-33.