An Especially Large and Brightly Painted
Miniature of David in Prayer
AN ILLUMINATED VELLUM MANUSCRIPT LEAF WITH A LARGE MINIATURE OF KING DAVID AT PRAYER, FROM A BOOK OF HOURS IN LATIN.
TEXT FROM THE SEVEN PENITENTIAL PSALMS.(France [Limoges?], ca. 1460s). 165 x 117 mm (6 1/2 x 4 5/8"). Single column, three lines of text on recto, 15 lines on verso, in a fine gothic book hand.
Attractively matted. Verso with five one-line initials in burnished gold on pink and blue grounds, RECTO WITH AN ANIMATED FULL RINCEAUX BORDER filled with blue and gold acanthus leaves and vines bearing red, blue, pink, and green flowers and leaves amid numerous burnished gold bezants and ivy leaves on twining hairline stems, the border tangent with a fine inner baguette of brilliantly burnished gold decorated with strawberry vines, and the whole ENCLOSING A RICHLY DETAILED ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURE OF KING DAVID AT PRAYER (measuring approximately 80 x 64 mm.), the miniature atop text begun with a large and lovely "D" in pink with white tracery enclosing a trio of blue violets, the letter on a burnished gold ground. Minor loss of paint to a few strawberries, top and inner margins very slightly extended (and with a number of tiny losses to border decoration), very thin vertical crease downward from God the Father, slight thumbing in lower right corner, but still an extremely appealing leaf, the paint very rich, the gold especially brilliant, and with the miniature itself generally in a fine state of preservation.
This very fine miniature serves to introduce the first of the Seven Penitential Psalms, which were to be recited during Lent as an act of contrition, but the sober text here did not prevent our artists from making this a very joyful and animated composition. David is depicted as no longer the slayer of Goliath or the young harper in a bucolic setting. His harp rests against the wall, and the aged, repentant sinner kneels in an archway between two rooms, an unroofed study with a bookstand in the foreground, and a chapel with an altar behind. The black and green checkered floor serves to unify the space, and in the upper right the Lord, his high forehead, forked white beard, and pink robe echoing David's own appearance, leans forward out of the sky, golden orb in hand. The Lord appears to be smiling, and we might conjecture that he is dispensing the forgiveness for which the Psalm asks. Lest the penitant become too confident, however, an archangel, presumably Michael, flies forward beneath the Divinity with a threatening sword raised aloft. The garments of David are a particularly attractive feature here. The artist uses sharp folds that seem to rustle almost audibly as they cascade around David. His voluminous red robe is etched with golden fold lines, and his sweeping blue cloak blows back, as if blasted by the intrusion of the Lord and the archangel, to reveal a solid gold lining. The border of strawberries that sets off the image from the surrounding welter of foliage is a sweet touch, and the outer border is unusually luxuriant. (ST11531)