The Queen Mary Psalter was named after Queen Mary I, having been presented to her in the 16th century, however it was originally created for an unknown patron between 1310 and 1320, nearly 200 years before Mary Tudor was born.
The Psalter opens with a unique cycle of 223 Old Testament miniatures, followed by a liturgical calendar (illustrated with images reflecting the signs of the zodiac), a bestiary, 87 colour and gold images depicting the life of Christ, and, of course, the Psalms.
The codex is illustrated with over 800 images, many of which depict everyday life in rural England, and reveal much about medieval life and medieval hunting techniques in particular. In one illustration, for example, we see two men beating oak trees with clubs in order to knock down the acorns to feed their pigs. In another we see medieval peasant women hunting rabbits using ferrets and nets.
Many of the images, in fact, reference women, including images of childbirth, mothers with their children, and many of the female biblical characters and saints. In part, because of this, many believe the original patron would have been a woman, the most likely candidate being Queen Isabella of France, Queen of England and consort of Edward II.
- Article by:
- Alixe Bovey
By exploring illuminations depicting rural life, Dr Alixe Bovey examines the role of the peasant in medieval society, and discusses the changes sparked by the Black Death.