Emma Luker - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Emma Luker

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Emma Luker

PhD student

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Thesis: The Leiden Psalter (Leiden, University Library, MS B.P.L. 76A): Patronage, Production and Ownership

Supervised by Prof. John Lowden

Funded by Courtauld scholarship

The Leiden Psalter (Leiden, University Library MS B. P. L. 76A) is a late twelfth-century English illuminated book of psalms. Its association with Geoffrey Plantagenet, an illegitimate son of Henry II and, in particular, Louis IX, King of France, who, according to a twice-repeated inscription in the manuscript used it to learn to read, has often been cited, but neither connection has been the subject of a deserved dedicated study. Moreover, the significance of other aspects of the manuscript, most notably its illumination comprising a 23-page prefatory cycle and 196 decorated initials, and issues of where, when and how it was made, have been largely overlooked. My thesis aims to redress these oversights, examining key aspects of the Leiden Psalter’s patronage, production and ownership.

Chapter one considers Geoffrey Plantagenet’s relationship with the Leiden Psalter based on the implications of the obit for his father, Henry II, added to the manuscript’s calendar. Chapter two explores the Old Testament subjects chosen for inclusion in the manuscript’s prefatory cycle, examining them within the context of those found, or not found, in other image cycles and what this might tell us about who commissioned them. Focussing on the contents of the calendar, the New Testament section of the prefatory cycle, and the style of the illumination, chapter three considers who might have made the Leiden Psalter, under what circumstances, and where. Developing similar themes, chapter four is a study of the relationship between the Leiden Psalter and the St John’s College Psalter (Cambridge, St John’s College, MS K. 30), another late twelfth-century English psalter with which the Leiden Psalter’s illumination is closely connected. Chapter five concentrates on the content of the Leiden Psalter’s initials, and what their images of crowned and mitred men may tell us about the manuscript’s patron/intended owner. Chapter six explores the manuscript’s representation of David, the supposed author of the psalms. The final chapter is a detailed study of Blanche of Castile and her son Louis IX’s relationship with the Leiden Psalter, which ends by tracing the manuscript’s subsequent ownership to the present day.

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