ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT PSALTER, in Latin, ILLUMINATED BY AN ARTIST FROM THE SOISSONS ATELIER, Paris, c.1230-1240
Lot 151
ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT
PSALTER, in Latin, ILLUMINATED BY AN ARTIST FROM THE SOISSONS ATELIER, Paris, c.1230-1240
Sold for £32,500 (US$ 43,476) inc. premium

Lot Details
ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT PSALTER, in Latin, ILLUMINATED BY AN ARTIST FROM THE SOISSONS ATELIER, Paris, c.1230-1240 ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT PSALTER, in Latin, ILLUMINATED BY AN ARTIST FROM THE SOISSONS ATELIER, Paris, c.1230-1240 ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT PSALTER, in Latin, ILLUMINATED BY AN ARTIST FROM THE SOISSONS ATELIER, Paris, c.1230-1240 ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT PSALTER, in Latin, ILLUMINATED BY AN ARTIST FROM THE SOISSONS ATELIER, Paris, c.1230-1240
ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT
PSALTER, in Latin, ILLUMINATED BY AN ARTIST FROM THE SOISSONS ATELIER, 206 leaves, apparently complete except for outer bifolium of first quire lacking (containing Jan/Feb and Nov/Dec of the Calendar), full collation precluded by tight binding and absence of catchwords, written space 80 x 54mm., ruled in plummet for 18 lines in 1 column, written in black ink in an early gothic bookhand, a small littera textualis, versals in red, blue and gold with elaborate penwork decoration in blue and red, linefillers in blue and gold, some as penwork interlacing in blue and red, others in the shape of fish, birds, dogs or dragons adding great variety to every opening, 2- to 4-line initials in blue and mauve on golden grounds with tendrils and white penwork and extensions towards the margins, a few of the 2-line initials incorporating fish and dragons, extensive blue and red penwork decoration in the lower margins with often oblique decorative bars and NUMEROUS DROLLERIES featuring dragons, birds and animals, a couple of illuminated drolleries in the lower margins, two figurated initials with animals on golden grounds, 5 figurated (inhabited) illuminated initials of 4 and 5 lines, calendar written in red, blue and gold, 16 small illuminated calendar medallions with burnished golden grounds depicting the zodiacal signs and the occupations of the month, 8 LARGER HISTORIATED INITIALS ranging in height from 7-10 lines, vellum occasionally a little darkened, slightly trimmed at top and sides sometimes affecting the marginal decoration, one leaf repaired at outer margin, a few contemporary corrections to the text, calendar miniatures slightly rubbed, a few of the psalter-miniatures more heavily rubbed and flaked (some having suffered iconoclastic attacks, with figures' eyes poked out or faces wiped off, leaving bodies intact), other miniatures unharmed, modern red velvet over wooden boards with green silk pastedowns, edges in pale blue, 12mo (123 x 85mm.), Paris, c.1230-1240

Footnotes

  • TEXT: fols. 1-8: Calendar; fols. 9 onwards: Psalter (Psalms 1-150), a blank leaf between psalms 108 and 109, Canticles (Isaiah 12:1-6, Exodus 15: 1-19 and others), Athanasian Creed, Kyrie, Litany with Collects, Prayers. Explicit: "Deus qui corda fidelium Sancti Spiritum illustracione docuisti da nobis in eodem spiritum recta sapere et de eius semper consolacione gaudere p(er Christum Dominum nostrum Amen)." A prayer added by a later hand in light brown ink on fol. 206v.

    CALENDAR: The calendar is of particular interest as it could help to establish a date for the manuscript. It is not too densely occupied, and highlights in gold only the major feast days. Saints of lesser importance are given in red and blue, while it seems that saints of the least local relevance are given in brown. The hues of the brown ink do vary, implying that some names might have been added at a later time. It is noticeable that a number of abbots appear in the calendar, suggesting that this psalter was made for a monastic congregation. (There is a prayer asking for protection of the congregation: "Pretende super famulos tuos et super cunctas congregationes illis commissas dexteram celestem auxilii ut te toto corde perquirant et que te digne postulant asequam".)

    The patron saints of the major and oldest Parisian parishes are listed in gold: Albin (January), Laurent (August), Giles (September), Denis (October). Abbots Leufredus and Turianus (August and September) appear only in brown ink, but their relics are kept in the abbey of St Germain-des-Prés in Paris; also St Victor and Mary Magdalen do appear a couple of times in the calendar. Neither St Francis (canonized in 1228) nor St Antony (canonized in 1232) are mentioned in the calendar, but neither is St Benedict, who was canonized already in the 11th century, so that drawing conclusions from the omission of the founders of the mendicant orders would be a bit premature.

    Interestingly though, the feast of Easter, "Resurrectio Domini", is marked in gold on 27th of March, although the date is moveable, depending on the first full moon in spring. In 1239, Easter was indeed celebrated on the 27th of March. The special saints of the litany include Floscelle, Audoene, Genoveva, Prisca and Marina, and point to other dioceses as well.

    ILLUMINATION: Every month of the calendar is decorated with two small medallions depicting the occupations of the month on top, and the zodiacal signs below. The sign for Gemini in May incorporates a shield that the twins are holding between them, which depicts a small fleur-de-lis. This is presumably only for decorative purposes and does not necessarily place the first owner of the book among French royalty.

    The eight large historiated initials follow the traditional liturgic division of the psalter into eight parts. In accordance with that tradition, psalms 1, 26, 38, 52, 68, 80, 97 and 109 are marked with an initial and an attached illuminated field containing the first few words of the psalm. The iconography in our psalter is fairly common in the 13th century as the cycle focuses on King David seeking guidance and understanding in his relationship with God. The human figures are depicted in a static and stereotypical way with bulbous heads, soft beards, arched eyebrows, a long nose, small lips and very characteristic eyes. Their hair is very recognisably wavy and curled. The figures are outlined with strong black contours, while the shading and modelling of the drapery is mostly achieved by darker hues of the colour of the gown. The hemlines are static but not entirely straight. Feet are either bare or in tiny black shoes with white outlines. While the artistic elegance of this illuminator may be a bit limited, it is skillful and absolutely appropriate for a tiny book of this size. His palette is dominated by orange-red, blue and a mauve tone of red; he decorates most of the plain coloured backgrounds with patterns and dots of white, using crosses and circles.

    All these stylistic features can be found with a collective of artists that Robert Branner named the "Soissons Atelier" (Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of Saint Louis, 1977, cf. pp. 77-78, figs. 174-184, esp. 182, 181 + colour plate XI). For lack of evidence, Branner was unable to establish a clearly distinguished time period during which this workshop was active, but based on the calendar of a psalter manuscript (today Pierpont Morgan Library MS M.283), he suggests that this workshop, consisting of about six men, flourished between after 1228 and before 1247. If the date of Easter on 27th of March in the present calendar would indeed imply that our manuscript was made in 1239, this would be completely congruent with the period that Branner suggested for the Soissons Atelier.

    In fact, the illumination of the calendar in our manuscript is almost identical to that in the Morgan Psalter (cf. http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/thumbs/77413), and gives us an opportunity to reconstruct how the calendar leaves of January, February, November and December would have looked. The Morgan Psalter however contains a number of full-page miniatures, with no text, that precede the beginning of the psalms. Whether the present manuscript also once contained such a gathering with full-page miniatures is impossible to state, but M.283 is of larger format (160 x 110mm.), ruled for 21 lines per page, and thus offered more space for larger compositions. Consequently, also the first initial of the psalms, the "Beatus vir"- initial is considerably bigger than the one in our manuscript. The following miniatures again resemble the miniatures in the present psalter so much in style and iconography that both codices could be called sister manuscripts. (Compare particularly "Dominus illuminatio", "Dixit Insipiens", "Salvum me fac", "Exultate", "Cantate Domino", and "Dixit Dominus".)

    The present manuscript is thus an extraordinary addition to this workshop's œuvre, and a surprising discovery.

    The motifs are: (calendar:) Pruning of Trees and Aries; Collecting of Birds and Taurus; Falconry and Gemini; Haymaking and Cancer; Harvesting of Crops and Leo; Thrashing of Corn and Libra; Sowing and Virgo; Wine making and Scorpio. (Psalter:) David playing the Harp in an initial B; David being anointed King in an initial D; David kneeling and pointing to his mouth in an initial D; a fool with a club and a cudgel in an initial D; David submerged in water praying to the Lord in an initial S; David playing cymbals in an initial E; two monks singing in front of a lectern in an initial C; Trinity in an initial D.

    Provenance: Private collection.
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