Leaf from a Psalter (Eadwine Psalter) with scenes from the New Testament thumbnail 1
Leaf from a Psalter (Eadwine Psalter) with scenes from the New Testament thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery

Leaf from a Psalter (Eadwine Psalter) with scenes from the New Testament

Manuscript Cutting
ca. 1155-1160 (illuminated)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Around 820 a magnificent copy of the Psalms was produced in the Rheims area, densely illustrated with a series of drawings in pen. These drawings still astonish by their lively, animated character, arranged almost informally around the text on the page. This Carolingian manuscript, known as the Utrecht Psalter (from the city where it has been since 1716), contains the three Latin versions of the Pslams. It was in Canterbury from at least ca 1000, where three copies or modernized versions of it were made. This leaf comes from one of them, a major Psalter with a prefatory portrait of the scribe Eadwine, a monk at Christ Church, Canterbury ca1155-60. This is one of the introductory leaves to the Psalter; each leaf was divided into compartments to tell the story of King David, the author of the Psalms, and the life of Christ that was foretold by the Psalms. This was the most extensive cycle of pictures for the New Testament produced in twelfth-century England.

Though a few of the compositions are related to drawings in the Utrecht Psalter, the style owes nothing to the Carolingian manuscript. The Canterbury copy has a limited range of colours. The figures are stocky and locked in monumental poses to convey the drama of the action. The convention used for the drapery is known as 'damp fold', a version of Byzantine conventions common throughout Europe from ca.1100. The lower part of the leaf is a different hand, showing that more than one illuminator could work in this style.

Four leaves were probably detached from the Eadwine Psalter at some time around 1600, when Thomas Nevile, Dean of Canterbury from 1597 to 1615, gave the Psalter to Trinity College, Cambridge, where it remains today (MS R.17.1). Manuscripts of this date were not generally admired, despite the rich decoration in this particular example. However, its evident antiquity attracted those who were interested in the origins of Britain. By the nineteenth century, these leaves belonged rather oddly to the collection of William Ottley (1771-1836), who saw the High Renaissance as the summit of art. In 1838 they were described as 'Saxon work, 11th century' - a barbarian curiosity and a suitable foil to later works which showed how Giotto emancipated art and set it on a route that was to lead to Raphael and his peers'.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour with egg or gum binding medium on vellum
Brief Description
Leaf from the Eadwine Psalter with scenes from the New Testament, Canterbury (England), ca.1155-60.
Physical Description
Leaf, with 24 scenes (12 on recto, 12 on verso) from a prefatory cycle of miniature of New Testament scenes relating to Christ's Passion, from Christ before Annas to Pentecost.

Dimensions
  • Height: 39.4cm
  • Width: 29.4cm
  • Weight: 1.48kg
  • Painted area, including frames width: 283mm
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Style
Gallery Label
LEAF FROM THE 'EADWINE PSALTER' About 1155-60 This leaf contains an extensive cycle of images recounting the life of Christ. It was one of several leaves that prefaced a manuscript of the psalms. The remainder of the manuscript, now in Cambridge, has fi ve different versions of the text, in Latin, Old English and Anglo-Norman. It was probably intended for academic study rather than the performance of the liturgy. England, Canterbury Watercolour on parchment Museum no. 816-1894(2009)
Object history
Collection of William Young Ottley: his sale, Sotheby's London, 11-12 May 1838, lot 132; bought by Lloyd for £2.2s. Collection of Nathaniel Philips Simes (1805-1889): his sale, Sotheby's London, 9-14 July 1883, lot 1095 (album, £120). Leaf purchased from Charles Fairfax Murray in 1894 as part of a group of cuttings (now Museum nos 799-1894 to 817-1894) for the total sum of £190 10s 10d. The leaf was bought from Charles Fairfax Murray for £50 on the 31st August 1894. A duplicate number MS.661 was assigned to this object in error and was subsequently cancelled.



Parent manuscript: Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.17.1.

Cuttings from the same manuscript in other collections: London, British Library, Additional MS 37472, f. 1; New York, Pierpont Morgan Library M 724 and M 521.

Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceThe Bible (New Testament)
Summary
Around 820 a magnificent copy of the Psalms was produced in the Rheims area, densely illustrated with a series of drawings in pen. These drawings still astonish by their lively, animated character, arranged almost informally around the text on the page. This Carolingian manuscript, known as the Utrecht Psalter (from the city where it has been since 1716), contains the three Latin versions of the Pslams. It was in Canterbury from at least ca 1000, where three copies or modernized versions of it were made. This leaf comes from one of them, a major Psalter with a prefatory portrait of the scribe Eadwine, a monk at Christ Church, Canterbury ca1155-60. This is one of the introductory leaves to the Psalter; each leaf was divided into compartments to tell the story of King David, the author of the Psalms, and the life of Christ that was foretold by the Psalms. This was the most extensive cycle of pictures for the New Testament produced in twelfth-century England.



Though a few of the compositions are related to drawings in the Utrecht Psalter, the style owes nothing to the Carolingian manuscript. The Canterbury copy has a limited range of colours. The figures are stocky and locked in monumental poses to convey the drama of the action. The convention used for the drapery is known as 'damp fold', a version of Byzantine conventions common throughout Europe from ca.1100. The lower part of the leaf is a different hand, showing that more than one illuminator could work in this style.



Four leaves were probably detached from the Eadwine Psalter at some time around 1600, when Thomas Nevile, Dean of Canterbury from 1597 to 1615, gave the Psalter to Trinity College, Cambridge, where it remains today (MS R.17.1). Manuscripts of this date were not generally admired, despite the rich decoration in this particular example. However, its evident antiquity attracted those who were interested in the origins of Britain. By the nineteenth century, these leaves belonged rather oddly to the collection of William Ottley (1771-1836), who saw the High Renaissance as the summit of art. In 1838 they were described as 'Saxon work, 11th century' - a barbarian curiosity and a suitable foil to later works which showed how Giotto emancipated art and set it on a route that was to lead to Raphael and his peers'.
Bibliographic References
  • Catalogue of Miniatures, Leaves, and Cuttings from Illuminated Manuscripts. Victoria and Albert Museum. Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design, by S.C. Cockerell and C. Harcourt Smith (London: HMSO, 1923, 2nd edition).p. 50.
  • Munby, A.N.L., Connoisseurs and medieval miniatures, 1750-1850, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1972.pp. 149ff.
  • Kauffmann, C.M., A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles, vol. III: Romanesque Manuscripts 1066-1190, ed. by J.J.G. Alexander, London, 1975, no. 66.
  • Hoffmann, Konrad, The Year 1200: a centennial exhibition at the Metropilitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters, New York, 1970pp. 313-318 (A. Heimann, 'The Last Copy of the Utrecht Psalter')
  • Harthan J.P.An introduction to illuminated manuscripts. London: 1983.p. 21.
  • Zarnecki, G. et al (eds.), English Romanesque Art 1066-1200, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984no. 40.
  • Williamson, Paul (ed.), The Medieval Treasury: the art of the Middle Ages in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1986
  • The Eadwine Psalter, ed. by M. Gibson, T.A. Heslop and R.W. Pfaff, London, 1992, pp. 38-42.
  • 'The Utrecht Psalter in Medieval Art', ed. Koert van der Horst et al; Utrecht, 1996.
  • Watson, R. Illuminated manuscripts and their makers. An account based on the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. London, 2003.pp. 76-77.
  • Kidd, P., Medieval Manuscripts Provenance blog, 2010-.'Ottley-Simes-Murray', blog post, 25 October 2020 [last accessed 17/11/2020].
Other Number
MS 661 - Previous number
Collection
Accession Number
816-1894

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record createdNovember 26, 2003
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