In addition to gold and jewels: a magnificent wedding gift from the Staufer Emperor Frederick II for his wife Isabella of England

Psalter of Frederick II

Acri (Italy) — 1235-1237

Psalter of Frederick II

Psalter of Frederick II

Acri (Italy) — 1235-1237

  1. The Hohenstaufen Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) was called *Stupor Mundi*, “wonder of the world”, because of his thirst for knowledge and artistic sensibility

  2. This Psalter was commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor as a wedding present for his wife Isabella of England (1214-1241)

  3. It was part of a sumptuous dowry that included caskets of gold, jewels, necklaces, tableware, and furnishings

Libro dei Salmi di Federico II

Psalter of Frederick II

Incipit, Psalm 80

This miniature is split into two registers and inserted into an incipit for Psalm 80. The second verse is presented on the right in gold leaf and written in majuscule: EXVLTATATE DEO ADIVOTRI NOSTRO or “Joy to God our strength…” Dark shades of blue and purple contrast with bright red and shimmering gold leaf backgrounds. This is one of the “communal laments”, a call to God for help ending with: “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!” (Ps. 80:19)

Psalter of Frederick II

Alternative Titles:
  • Libro dei Salmi di Federico II
  • Salterio di Federico II
  • Book of Psalms of Frederick II
  • Psalterium et cantica Ecclesiae
  • Psalter Friedrichs II.
  • Buch der Psalmen von Friedrichs II.
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

This precious Psalter is another splendid manuscript commissioned by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, one of the greatest patrons of art, culture, and learning in all of the Middle Ages. Commissioned as a wedding gift for his third wife, Princess Isabella of England, it is a striking codex that exhibits strong Byzantine artistic influences and may have even been made in Asia Minor. The wealth of gold leaf and expensive pigments are an attestation to the wealth and sophistication of its imperial patron.

Psalter of Frederick II

The extraordinary collection of medieval codices conserved in the Biblioteca Riccardiana of Florence includes a parchment manuscript, inventoried under number 323 and better known as the Psalter of Frederick II. The Libro dei Salmi di Federico II is a little jewel, probably illuminated in some scriptorium of Asia Minor ca. 1235-1237, commissioned by the Swabian Emperor as a wedding gift for his third wife Isabella of England, daughter of King John “Lackland” and sister of Henry III Plantagenet, whom he married at Worms on July 20, 1235. The preparations for the wedding were solemn; the sumptuous dowry consisted of caskets of gold, jewels, necklaces, tableware, and furnishings, and most likely also included the psalter intended to accompany the empress in her daily prayers.

An Imperial Commission

Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) was one of the most educated rulers in medieval history and his court attracted the greatest artists and scholars of the 13th century. Worthy of its imperial patron, this precious codex strikes the eye because of the chromatic wealth of its miniatures, gold grounds that make them resemble mosaics, the brightness of colors, and a quasi-enameled surface. We have sought to render this brilliance in the reproduction by adopting a special printing technique with stochastic cross-hatching that makes it possible to obtain a continuous tone of coloring, rendering colors, and details with a photographic quality. The successive application of gold dust has made it possible to reproduce, as faithfully as possible, the almost chalky characteristics of gold applied with a brush on the codex sheets, while the natural parchment used to line the book boards renders the medieval flavor of the original binding, unfortunately lost, which was duplicated in the 1800s and still today protects the volume.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Libro dei Salmi di Federico II
Salterio di Federico II
Book of Psalms of Frederick II
Psalterium et cantica Ecclesiae
Psalter Friedrichs II.
Buch der Psalmen von Friedrichs II.
Size / Format
175 pages / 22.5 x 16.0 cm
Date
1235-1237
Language
Previous Owners
Libro dei Salmi di Federico II

Psalter of Frederick II

Beatus Vir Initial

Beatus vir or “Blessed is the man” – thus begins the Book of Psalms in the Vulgate Bible. This initial / incipit page is a standard feature of many medieval manuscripts, but this specimen is arguably the finest and truly worthy of an emperor. The historiated initial contains the events of the Nativity as well as prophets and other relevant figures from the Old Testament like King David.

The “B” initial consists of two red dragons with dark green wings, which is further adorned by blue interlace. Although the figures exhibit the realism and plasticity of 13th century Italian illumination, this page, like the rest of the manuscript, is clearly Byzantine in style. This is particularly evident in the dark, opaque colors and burnished gold background.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Psalter of Frederick II“

Libro dei Salmi di Federico II
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
Psalter of Frederick II – Ms. Ricc 323 – Biblioteca Riccardiana (Florence, Italy)
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Libro dei Salmi di Federico II

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Vallecchi – Florence, 2006
Limited Edition
500
Binding
The natural parchment used to line the book boards renders the medieval flavour of the original binding, unfortunately lost.
Commentary
1 volume by Franco Cardini and Giovanna Lazzi
Language: Italian
More Information
Reproduced in a special printing technique with stochastic cross-hatching that makes it possible to obtain a continuous tone of colouring, rendering colours and details with a photographic quality. The successive application of gold dust has made it poss
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