Landgrave Psalter

Landgrave Psalter

Hildesheim (Germany) — 1211–1213

The commission of a powerful art-lover: a Gothic masterpiece with golden miniatures

  1. Landgrave Hermann I of Thuringia and Hesse (d. 1217) was a man known for his ruthlessness and love of the arts

  2. His commission is a masterpiece of the early Gothic style decorated with gold leaf and pen-drawn tendrils

  3. The text is accompanied by an illuminated calendar, Canticles, a Litany of Saints, and an Office of the Dead

Landgrave Psalter

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Landgrave Psalter

The Landgrave Psalter is the magnificent result of a commission by Landgrave Hermann I of Thuringia and Hesse. A complex man known both for ruthlessness and a love of the arts, Hermann I maintained a court in Eisenach that was a haven for artists and scholars. It contains the standard complement of psalter texts such as a calendar, litany of saints, prayer offices, and the Psalms themselves. The manuscript is considered to be a masterpiece of the early Gothic style and in addition to its 8 full-page miniatures, features a uniquely varied decoration of the initials, some of which are a half-page in length, all of which are decorated with gold leaf and pen-drawn tendrils.

Landgrave Psalter

Since the beginning of the 19th century, the Landesbibliothek in Stuttgart has preserved one of the finest works of early Gothic illumination: the Landgrave Psalter. The name of this manuscript is closely associated with its commissioner, Landgrave Hermann I of Thuringia and Hesse, who is mentioned more than once in the book, above all in the litany and in the intercessory prayers. His portrait and that of his second spouse, Sophie of the Wittelsbach dynasty, both occupy a prominent place within the princely gallery contained in the Litany. Hermann of Thuringia (r. 1190–1217) was considered to be a ruthless politician but also a generous patron of the arts and sciences, a man of great culture who maintained a court in Eisenach that was very supportive of the arts for that time. The significance of this sovereign is underlined by this psalter, which may be referred to as a true chef-d’œuvre both from an artistic and a technical point of view.

Miniatures and Initials of Outstanding Quality

Both the layout and the structure of the text comply with the usual program of psalter manuscripts. The central piece – a Psalterium Gallicanum – is accompanied by a Calendar, Canticles, a Litany of all Saints, and an Office of the Dead. Virtually all initials are executed as golden majuscules and further enriched with blue foliage-like pen drawings. Certain Psalms are additionally highlighted by artfully interlaced initials which may even reach the length of half a page. In addition to this extremely varied initial decoration – all initials differ from each other and each form seems to have been invented from anew – the opulence and preciousness of the Landgrave Psalter lie above all in its eight full-page miniatures.

A Unique Calendar

The lavishly decorated calendar is as impressive as the miniatures themselves. The monthly pages enrich the actual calendar with nearly full-length depictions of the Apostles of the months. Above them, genre scenes of pastoral life help to identify the month in question. The meticulously drawn figures, their bodies finely modelled in different shades, the decorative play of color, and the exuberant use of gold, are all aspects which make the decorative apparatus of the Landgrave Psalter appear so luxurious.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Landgrafenpsalter
Size / Format
384 pages / 23.3 × 17.0 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
1211–1213
Style
Language
Illustrations
20 miniature pages: 8 full-page miniatures, 12 richly ornamented calendar pages, and numerous splendid initial letters on gold grounds

Available facsimile editions:
Landgrave Psalter – HB II 24 – Württembergische Landesbibliothek (Stuttgart, Germany)
Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt (ADEVA) – Graz, 1992
Limited Edition: 480 copies
Detail Picture

Landgrave Psalter

Historiated Beatus Vir Initial

Beatus vir or “Blessed is the man” – thus begins the Book of Psalms in the Vulgate Bible. The page is awash with rich primary colors and a burnished gold background – King David can be seen to the right with his lyre as he composes the Psalms. The upper-half of this “B” initial is populated with various figures: we can see two hunters, one using a bow and the other a spear. In the upper left corner, a man armed with sword and shield fights a half-man/half-dragon drollery.

Der Landgrafenpsalter
Single Page

Landgrave Psalter

Harrowing of Hell

According to Christian theology, Christ descended triumphantly into Hell between the Crucifixion and Resurrection. There he proclaimed good tidings to the dead and brought salvation to all the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world. Staff in hand, Christ reaches out to the denizens of Hell, depicted in typical fashion as the mouth of a great monster – the Hellmouth.

Christ is dressed in highly stylized robes of red and blue with an angular fall of folds in the Zackenstil or “jagged style” typical of German manuscript art in the early Gothic period. Although the burnished gold background gives the scene a timeless and spaceless feel, Christ’s robe extends beyond the frame as though he has just stepped into the scene.

Der Landgrafenpsalter
Facsimile Editions

#1 Der Landgrafenpsalter

Landgrave Psalter – HB II 24 – Württembergische Landesbibliothek (Stuttgart, Germany)
Landgrave Psalter – HB II 24 – Württembergische Landesbibliothek (Stuttgart, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Limited Edition: 480 copies
Binding: Gold embossed red leather. All folios are cut according to the original. Protected with the commentary volume in a slipcase.
Commentary: 1 volume (146 pages) by Felix Heinzer, Renate Kroos, Klaus Schreiner, Fred Schwind, and Vera Trost
Language: German
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.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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