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History, Typology and Homily: The Joseph Cycle in the Queen Mary Psalter

Kathryn A. Smith
Gesta
Vol. 32, No. 2 (1993), pp. 147-159
DOI: 10.2307/767172
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/767172
Page Count: 13
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History, Typology and Homily: The Joseph Cycle in the Queen Mary Psalter
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Abstract

The Queen Mary Psalter is one of the most important English luxury devotional manuscripts of the first half of the fourteenth century. However, the impetus for and circumstances of the book's commission have until now remained an enigma. The starting point for this study is the discovery of a representation of the dovetopped virga--an element of the royal regalia depicted in several works associated with Plantagenet patronage--in the Joseph narrative in the Old Testament cycle at the beginning of the manuscript. The meaning and function of the dove-topped rod in other works in which it appears are analyzed. Then other iconographic choices made in the representation of the Joseph story are evaluated in light of some of the most urgent political concerns of the reign of Edward II, as recorded in contemporary chronicles. It is suggested that the Psalter was commissioned by Edward for his queen, Isabella of France, and that this "reconstituted" Joseph cycle functioned both as a commentary on Edward's fiscal and agricultural policies, and as an "anti-model" of conjugal fidelity for his wife.

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