Thursday, August 1, 2013

Virgo and August

 This Psalter was made for, and most likely by, a group of Benedictine nuns at the Abbey of Saints Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg, Germany. Although the Psalter itself, along with its calendar, date to the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, a number of texts and prayers were added in the mid thirteenth century. Most striking about the manuscript are its illuminations, which include a prefatory cycle, full-page miniatures and historiated initials. While all are Romanesque in style, they vary greatly in quality and technique, and three or four different artists seem to have been at work. The Claricia Psalter takes its name from one of the initials, which depicts a young girl in secular dress swinging from the initial "Q," who has "Claricia" written around her head. It has been suggested that the image represents a novice artist who signed her work, but there are many other theories, and none are certain.

This Psalter-Hours was made for a Franciscan community in Cologne, Germany, in the late thirteenth century. It is especially notable for its large program of illuminations, which includes roundels in the calendar depicting the labors of the month, two full-page miniatures, fourteen historiated initials, and grotesques perched upon the top of bar borders throughout. It is identical in style to Baltimore, Walters Ms. W.111, and both are related to the style of Liège manuscripts of the 1280s-90s. They are also considered to be stylistic precursors of works by Johannes von Valkenburg, such as two graduals he created for Franciscans in Cologne in 1299 (Cologne, Diözesan Bibliothek Ms. 1B and Bonn, Universitätsbibliothek Ms. 384).

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