Leaf Excised from a Psalter: The Annunciation

Leaf Excised from a Psalter: The Annunciation

c. 1325-1350

Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum

Sheet: 15.8 x 11.2 cm (6 1/4 x 4 7/16 in.)

Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1952.230



Psalms are sacred songs or hymns from the Book of Psalms found in the Bible. Psalters were, therefore, service books that contained all 150 biblical psalms, bound independently of the Bible. Traditional locations within a psalter were often emphasized by decorated initials. In luxury psalters, the large opening initial "B" of the first psalm was customarily decorated with scenes representing King David, the author of the psalms.

Psalters were common in the Middle Ages because Benedictine monks were required to sing all the psalms each week. They were also used by parish priests and by lay persons who used them for private devotions. Psalters were the precursors to books of hours, another devotional book that became popular in Europe during the 15th century. Manuscript psalters often included other liturgical elements such as a calendar, litany, and an office of the dead.

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