Click here to skip to content

An Ass Playing A Lyre, In A Psalter

An Ass Playing A Lyre, In A Psalter

Medium: Ink, pigments and gold on vellum

Date: 1225

Shelfmark: Harley MS 5102

Item number: f.13v

Length: 31.3

Width: 21.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Five full-page miniatures have been inserted as single leaves into this 13th-century Psalter, but they are in a different, older style, and are probably re-used from a 12th-century manuscript. There is no trace of a calendar or litany, and lacking any liturgical evidence, the manuscript has been tentatively attributed to the East Midlands. The image of an ass playing a lyre or harp was popular in the Middle Ages, perhaps inspired by Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy, in which Philosophy asks "Do you listen only as the 'dull ass to the lyre'?", meaning "are you too stupid to understand what you hear?" Such images were perhaps intended to parody representations of King David harping, which are often found in illustrated Psalters.

Search within this collection

Elsewhere on our websites

Newsletter

Latest events - register free online

Mobile app

For iPhone, iPad and Android

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Report a Concern

What is the nature of your concern?

Email link to a friend

Write a brief note to accompany the email

Your friend's email address: