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Historiated Initial With The Virgin And Child, In A Psalter Preceded By Miniatures And A Calendar

Historiated Initial With The Virgin And Child, In A Psalter Preceded By Miniatures And A Calendar

Medium: Ink, pigments and gold on vellum

Date: 1210

Shelfmark: Royal MS 1 D.x

Item number: f.86r

Length: 34.6

Width: 22.9

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Oxford University came into being gradually, around the year 1200, and a community of book-makers were soon established in the town, centred around the Catte Street and St. Mary's Church. Documentary records suggest that these book-makers not only provided students with the necessary textbooks, but also specialised in meeting the needs of the luxury market: a disproportionately large number of illuminators are recorded. This psalter is probably one of their products: the calendar and litany include three entries for St. Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. A picture of the Virgin and Child decorate the first letter of Psalm 97, "Sing to the Lord a new song," offering the reader an icon-like image as a devotional aid for the prayer. Even though the psalter was written before Christianity, medieval Christian theologians interpreted it as a series of prophecies of Christ and the church, hence the frequent depiction of Jesus and Mary in copies of it. This painting with its graceful outlines and crisp modelling of the faces in warm tans with a green underpainting is a good example of continuity of earlier traditions of drawing and Byzantine painting techniques in English manuscript art as well as the impact of Continental styles.

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