ENGLISH ILLUMINATION FROM THE TENTH TO THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY

PSALTERIUM CUM CANTICIS PSALTERIUM CUM CANTICIS
A.D. 1240
Brit. Mus. Roy. MS. 2, A. xxii, fol. 14
 
EPISTRE AU ROY RICH. 2 EPISTRE AU ROY RICH. 2
C. 1375
Brit. Mus. Roy. MS. 20 B, vi, fol. 1

Since 980 a considerable quantity of transcription and illumination must have been produced, notwithstanding disquiet, turbulence, and war. At Westminster the traditions of illumination seem to have followed the methods of the earlier Winchester school. But in the twelfth century English work shows, on the whole, a greater likeness to the contemporary work of Germany. Of Westminster work an example occurs among the Royal MSS. (2 A. 22). The subject is the Psalter, and the text is the handsome style of penmanship known as English Gothic of the latter part of the twelfth century. It would appear from the frequent occurrence of this particular service-book that it held the place of the later Book of Hours, and so we may expect a great similarity among different copies, both in the selection of the illustrations and their mode of treatment. It was usual in all such volumes to prefix to the text a series of subjects from the Old and New Testaments and the Lives of the Saints. Here we have them from the Life of the Virgin and from the Life of David, by no means unworthy samples of the school. One represents the Virgin and Child seated on a seat of the Germano-Byzantine type beneath an arch and within a square frame-border. The border seems first to have been flatly painted in two colours, pale blue and pale red ochre, and on this a foliage scroll of recurring forms in a bold dull red outline finely relieved with white. This is more or less repeated as the form of border to the other illuminations. Outside the whole is a characteristic slender frame of bright green in two tints. The arch overhead has two bands of vermilion, with white edge-reliefs and a central band of blue, again in two tints, with pairs of black cross-bars every half-inch or so resting on the capitals of the two pillars which form the sides of the scene. These pillars have each a green abacus at the top of each capital and scarlet bead below. Each pillar is of dappled red, marble-like porphyry, with plinths of scarlet and blue. Tiers of differently coloured steps separated by bands of scarlet, green, etc., form the seat. The Virgin wears the hood, cape, and robe of the Benedictine nun, but coloured grey, chocolate, and blue respectively. An under garment of pale amber completes her dress. The infant wears an amber tunic, wrapped in a scarlet robe. A very common embroidery of the drapery consists of little stars or triads of white studs. This also is a characteristic of German and early Netherlandish illumination. There is a rich gold brocade border to the blue robe of the Virgin. Both mother and child have round nimbuses, the former in plain circular bands of russet and orange, the latter consisting of bands of pale blue surmounted by a scarlet cross. Two lumps of green glass or metal hang from the arch. The background is a plate of gold. The flesh tones are livid, being of a pale greenish ochre tint. One other of the illuminations of this exceedingly interesting MS. may be mentioned, viz. the David playing his harp. He also wears three garments—a tunic of white shaded with pale blue, then another of lavender or lilac and having rich brocaded borders, and, lastly, a pallium or robe of pale chocolate lined with ermine; orange-coloured hose. The throne, like the previous one, is of several colours—slate-blue, green, orange, and white, with a buff cushion. Here is a back to the throne of a deep blue, with a background, as before, of bright flat gold. The white moulding is shaded with pale green, with bluish slate corners. The outer border is of the pale red ochre or pink, so common in later work in contrast with deep blue. An outer frame or edging of green completes the page. The harp is not gilded, but of a drab hue, with two quatrefoil studs or orifices in the frame, relieved as usual with fine edges of white. Compare this MS. with one in the Library at Lambeth.