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The Landgrave Psalter
German early gothic for an important ruler
Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, HB II 24, Hildesheim, 1211-1213

CODICES SELECTI, Vol. XCIII

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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 Herman 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.
Herman 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 layout and structure of the text comply with the usual programme 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 equally impressive as the miniatures themselves. The monthly pages enrich the actual Calendar with nearly full-length depiction's 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 colour, and the exuberant use of gold, are all aspects which make the decorative apparatus of the Landgrave Psalter appear so luxurious.

The facsimile edition

All 384 pages of the manuscript are faithfully reproduced in the original format of 23.3 x 17 cm, including 20 miniature pages and countless golden initials, in a limited edition of 480 copies. The commentary volume explains the individual miniatures and describes the historic and art historic background for both expert and lay readers.

   
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