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Psalter Illustration in the Très Riches Heures of Jean de Berry
Margaret M. Manion
Vol. 34, No. 2 (1995), pp. 147-161
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767285
Page Count: 15
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This article draws attention to a hitherto neglected aspect of the Très Riches Heures of Jean de Berry (ca. 1411-1416), namely an unusual series of small miniatures which illustrate the psalms and canticles of the book's various Offices and devotions. Instead of referring to the theme of a particular Office, as is customary for illustrations in books of hours, these miniatures, following an old tradition of psalter illustration, focus attention on certain words or verses of individual psalms, and were originally designed to be accompanied by explanatory tituli. It is argued that the purpose of these labelled images was to enable the Duke to select individual psalms or canticles for prayer as if from a psalter. Analysis of this imagery also demonstrates how attention was focussed on fundamental Christian truths through typology, christological interpretation and liturgical association. By contrast to the small group of fully illustrated late medieval psalters that employ the literal or allegorical "word picture" method, the psalm miniatures in the Très Riches Heures avoid obscure interpretations; the series provides an interesting example of the skilful linking of words and images for the purposes of instruction and affective devotion, that is characteristic of prayer-books produced for members of the French royal family throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Gesta © 1995 The University of Chicago Press