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Betrayal and Flagellation, in The Winchester Psalter

Betrayal and Flagellation, in The Winchester Psalter

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1150

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero C IV

Item number: f.21r

Length: 32

Width: 22.4

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Traditionally called the 'St Swithun Psalter' because it contains a prayer to the saint, this psalter's origins can be placed at Winchester, probably at the Cathedral Priory, which is dedicated to him. It is beautifully illustrated with a series of full-page tinted drawings which probably reflect the tastes and high social status of Hugh of Blois, Bishop of Winchester (1129-1171), patron of the arts, and brother of King Stephen. Hugh had been a monk at Cluny where sumptuous visual art abounded. The psalter, though, was made in England, having some details which relate back to 11th Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Hugh of Blois may have used it as a prayerbook either privately or during the daily monastic prayers called the divine office.

Most of the full-page pictures in the Winchester Psalter are divided into two or more panels. This one shows scenes from the Passion or suffering of Christ. At the top, Christ, surrounded by the hostile crowd, receives the kiss of Judas, while a club-bearing man grasps his bound wrists. Peter's head is visible behind Christ's. Below, grotesque characters carry out the scourging as herod looks on. The elongated figures and clinging, curving draperies are features of a contemporary style seen in some of the best manuscript paintings. The pictures would have been aids for prayer, encouraging the viewer to connect the gospel stories with verses of the psalms.

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