English Psalter with Faces of a Woman and a Bear
Type: Leaves & Fragments
Illuminated Psalter with Charming Drolleries. Single folio on vellum. England, ca. 1375: 109 mm x 79 mm (justification, 70 mm x 51 mm). Single column, 16 lines. Foliated “58” in early modern pen in the upper right-hand corner of the recto. Ruled in diluted brown ink. Decoration: a small two-line initial in pink and white on gold grounds with the face of woman wearing a white wimple, possibly a nun. Both sides of the page are framed by three bar borders shaped like branches in bright gold and colors with ivy leaves and white-leaf penwork highlights. The border on the verso features the head of a brown bear. Gold initials on alternating red and blue grounds with white-lead penwork highlights. Multicolored line-fillers throughout, most with white-lead penwork and gold drops. The decoration of Psalm 69 (“Deus in adiutorium meum intende”) with a woman’s face must have been deliberate, as this Psalm verse opens nearly all of the Hours in the Office of the Virgin, which many women would have recited in their Books of Hours. Text: Ps. 68.33 videant pauperes … in ea (end); Ps. 69 (complete); Ps. 70.1 In te domine … 70.2 libera. Provenance: from the collection of Matthew Lee of Devon, d. ca. ?1780. His son Thomas Huckell Lee inherited the manuscript and signed it. Thomas died in 1822. The Lees owned many impressive manuscripts, including a Brut, Piers Plowman, and copy of Martial’s Epigrams. Our manuscript was last recorded in a Maggs catalogue from 1939, which states that the source manuscript had 133 folios. Condition: somewhat worn, with gold missing here and there and gesso visible underneath, and lightly soiled from use.