The Queen Mary Psalter: Narrative And Devotion In Gothic England
Austin, Texas: University Of Texas At Austin, 1992
PhD dissertation at the University Of Texas At Austin.
"The Queen Mary Psalter (London, BL Ms. Royal 2B.vii, ca. 1310-20) stands out among English manuscripts for its graceful drawing style and for the choices that dictated its evocative contents. A single anonymous master enlivened its devotional texts with a complex, three-tiered decorative program, which is preceded by an Old-Testament picture cycle. Many studies have addressed the Psalter's distinctive style, but the significance of its unusual contents has never been explored in any depth. This dissertation focuses on three aspects of this manuscript. First, the Psalter's narratives were edited to emphasize three themes: the importance of women's actions, and of strong kinship ties, and the need for responsible leaders. Second, each decorative program dictates a different kind of reading. The preface depicts scenes from the Creation to the death of Solomon in delicate, tinted drawings. This section is a linear narrative with an Anglo-Norman text in a small, informal script, and is presented as an intimate reading experience. The Latin psalter proper, which includes typical devotional texts written in a large, formal script, is a less intimate section. Three separate but interwoven levels of decoration accompany these texts: historiated initials, marking their devotional divisions; large, brilliant illuminations, depicting scenes from Christ's life; and bas-de-page drawings, decorating every folio with tales from the bestiary, courtly life, the miracles of the Virgin, and the lives of the martyred saints. Each of these levels acts either as a linear narrative or as enhancement for the non-linear devotional texts. Finally Royal 2B.vii is examined in terms of its devotional and didactic uses. The manuscript is a unique compromise between older narrative emphases and later medieval devotional trends, and its inclusion of biblical, social, and natural history would have made it a useful teaching tool. Thus the Queen Mary Psalter, examined as a carefully designed, functional codex for the first time, is viewed as a combination of prayerbook, history book, and primer." - abstract
Last update December 6, 2021