Chludov Psalter

Chludov Psalter – AyN Ediciones – Ms. D.29 (GIM 86795 - Khlud. 129-d) – State Historical Museum of Russia (Moscow, Russia)

Istanbul (Turkey) β€” 829–837

With masterful miniatures and biting caricatures against iconoclasm: a powerful visual testimony to the Byzantine iconoclastic controversy in the 9th century that innovatively connects text and image

  1. This 9th century Byzantine masterpiece is an eyewitness to the struggle centering around Iconoclasm

  2. It was the prized possession of a monastery on Mt. Athos before being brought to Moscow in 1847

  3. Small arrows pointing from the text to the illustration are among the innovations to be found in the work

Chludov Psalter

Ms. D.29 (GIM 86795 - Khlud. 129-d) State Historical Museum of Russia (Moscow, Russia)
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Chludov Psalter

Between 829 and 837, an illuminated manuscript was made in Constantinople by anonymous illuminators that completely revolutionized the medium of books at that time. The so-called Chludov Psalter, which takes its modern name from its last owner, Alexei Chludov, is an incomparable masterpiece of Byzantine illumination. A part of the work concerns itself with the iconoclastic struggle within the Byzantine Empire, which raged throughout the 9th century and was of tremendous political and religious significance. The countless marginal illuminations are remarkable not only for their breathtakingly bold colors and the small arrows that connect the texts to the pictorial works, but especially for one particular depiction: for the first time in the history of the book, a miniature shows a caricature stylizing the conflict. Thus, the richly illuminated Psalter is a significant testimony to the controversy over iconoclasm in the 9th century.

Chludov Psalter

Over the millennia, the State and Church have used the power of images to assert their status, teach their doctrine, and to generate belief and devotion. It was for this same reason that countless works of art have been wiped out in times of conflict: buildings razed, statues smashed, and pictures burned. Serious outbreaks of iconoclasm – the intentional destruction of images – have repeatedly occurred throughout the course of history. The so-called Chludov Psalter originates from the time of the iconoclastic controversy within the Byzantine Empire during the first half of the 9th century. The unusually polemic style of the work verifies the passion of the strife between the iconoclasts and the iconodules, those representatives of the veneration of images. This is a unique liturgical work that is adorned with 209 truly revolutionary images.

An Incomparable Literary Creation

The Chludov Psalter is the oldest of the three remaining illuminated psalters that were made in the Byzantine Empire sometime in the middle of the 9th century. Part of the Psalter discusses the Byzantine Iconoclasm and thereby employs a unique device, which has never before been used in a liturgical book. The anonymous illuminators used a caricature in order to stylize the political and religious conflict. The person caricatured was the last iconoclastic Patriarch of Constantinople, John VII Grammatikos. A miniature in the psalter illustrates Psalm 69:21, β€œThey also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” In the background, the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Golgotha is depicted. A soldier reaches Christ with a sponge soaked in vinegar on a pole. In the foreground a depiction of the Patriarch is found, who is erasing an image of Christ with a similar sponge. John Grammatikos is caricatured, both here and on other pages, with crazy hair that sticks out in all directions in order to make him appear laughable to the elegant and refined Byzantines.

The History of a Historically Significant Masterpiece

Research by the Russian historian and expert in Byzantine Art History, Nikodim Kondakow asserts that the Psalter was made in the Monastery of Stoudios in Constantinople. Other academics are of the opinion that the liturgical answers cited in the text would only have been given in the Hagia Sophia, and that the psalter was made in the imperial workshops of Constantinople in the year 843, shortly after the iconodules came back into power. After its creation, it was stored at the Holy Mount Athos, until it was brought to Moscow by the Russian Slavicist in 1847. There it was acquired by the Old Belief seller and art collector Aleksey Ivanovich Khludov, after whom the psalter takes its present title. The psalter was bequeathed along with other parts of his collection to the Nikolai Monastery and has been stored since 1917 in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

A Revolutionary Picture Program

The astounding miniatures and frame embellishments of the psalter are not only exceptional because of their high-quality design and wide variety of colors. Simultaneously, they are the first pictorial depictions in an illuminated manuscript – worldwide – that were additionally furnished with textual explanations. An additional novelty consists of small arrows, that point from the text to the illustrations. These arrows are meant to indicate what lines correspond to what illustrations. The content of the miniature is not limited to canonical Christian subjects. The frames of the manuscript depict the historical personalities during the time of the Byzantine Iconoclasm, and the miniatures mirror the disputes occurring within society during that epoch. This illumination represents are truly unique and incomparable picture program.


Alternative Titles
Khludov Psalter
Salterio Chludov
Psalterio Chludov
Salterio griego JlΓΊdov
Salterio Khludov
Size / Format
338 pages / 19.5 Γ— 15.0 cm
Greek majuscule
209 illuminations surrounding the text
Psalms in the arrangement of the Septuagint, with liturgical responses as they would have been sung in the Hagia Sophia
Previous Owners
Monastery of Great Lavra on Mount Athos
Monastery of the Holy Trinity on the island of Halki
Aleksey Khludov (1818-82)
Nikolsky Old Believer Monastery

Available facsimile editions:
Chludov Psalter – AyN Ediciones – Ms. D.29 (GIM 86795 - Khlud. 129-d) – State Historical Museum of Russia (Moscow, Russia)
AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Detail Picture

Chludov Psalter

Moses Receives the Ten Commandments

According to Exodus, Moses went up to Mount Sinai three months after the escape from Egypt to receive the Ten Commandments, a cornerstone of the Abrahamic religions. Wearing a golden halo, Moses is depicted humbly receiving the document with his head bowed from the hand of God. Meanwhile, the Israelites at the foot of the mountain have fallen into wickedness: some are depicted dancing and playing music at the base of Mount Sinai while others bow down before the false idol of a calf.

Chludov Psalter – AyN Ediciones – Ms. D.29 (GIM 86795 - Khlud. 129-d) – State Historical Museum of Russia (Moscow, Russia)
Single Page

Chludov Psalter

The Iconoclasts and the Crucifixion

This is an incomparable masterpiece of Byzantine illumination. It is also one of the only texts to deal with and challenge the Byzantine Iconoclasm, which sought to strictly enforce the Commandment: β€œThou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.”

In the miniature at hand, the last iconoclastic Patriarch of Constantinople, John VII Grammatikos is caricatured with crazy hair that sticks out in all directions in order to make him appear laughable to the elegant and refined Byzantines. He is shown erasing an image of Jesus in direct comparison with the Roman soldiers stabbing Christ Crucified with a spear. Containers appear under each image of Christ, one catches his blood while the other holds the paint with which his image is whitewashed.

Chludov Psalter – AyN Ediciones – Ms. D.29 (GIM 86795 - Khlud. 129-d) – State Historical Museum of Russia (Moscow, Russia)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Salterio griego Jlúdov

AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007

Publisher: AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2007
Limited Edition: 995 copies
Binding: Leather with two clasps
Commentary: 1 volume by Viktor I. Grigorovich, Tamara Igumnova, M.M. Pankova, Miguel Cortés Arrese, and Pedro Bádenas de la PenaΜƒ
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
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