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David, in The Winchester Psalter f.6r

David, in The Winchester Psalter f.6r

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1150

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Nero C IV

Item number: f.6r

Length: 32

Width: 22.2

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.

The story of David, who was considered the author of the Psalms, appears in several of the full-page pictures. Here his encounter with Goliath (1 Samuel 16-17) is compressed into two panels. At the top, David declines Saul's offer of his own armour, immediately followed by David with his sling and the stone striking Goliath's forehead. In the lower panel, Goliath lies dead on the right, while David cuts off his head. At the left David presents Saul with the head, as Saul asks him to identify himself.

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