The Munich golden Psalter – currently located in the Bavarian State Library – is a wealthy and lavish prayerbook featuring several illustrations: 91 full-page miniatures depicted on a shimmering gold background, 24 beautifully illuminated medallion miniatures, and several historiated and inhabited initials. Furthermore, the richly decorated manuscript features a calendar and red and blue line fillers which complement the sense of opulence of the work. The codex was created in the early 13th century in Oxford by the hand of three artists who collaborated to create a manuscript that is considered striking as it represents the shift from the Romanesque to the Gothic art.
Lavish Work for Daily Use
As the educated class started to develop an interest toward books for private devotions, the favored type was the psalter due to its easy readability and its daily use. From the end of the 12th century to the 14th century there was a great production of psalters in England and northern France.
The iconographic apparatus of the Munich Golden Psalter features a detailed cycle of miniatures evenly distributed throughout the leaves of the manuscript. The manuscript contains 19 illuminated scenes from the New Testament depicting themes such as the Annunciation, birth, Passion, crucifixion, and Pentecost and 16 full-page miniatures from the Old Testament.
In addition to the main illustrations the lavish manuscript features several examples of sumptuous illuminated initials such as 10 decorated initials, half a page in size, featuring multi-colored, intertwined bands with elongated foliate and dragon decorations.
From Romanesque to Gothic: the Transitional Style
The artistic style of the works created in England between 1180 and 1220 are identified as Transitional Style. The Munich Golden Psalter belongs to this period, in which the Romanesque style was slowly coming to an end and the early Gothic was about to manifest itself, witnessing the shift from one artistic movement to another.
The transition from one style to another is clear in the representation of the figures which feature a sense of calm, although the anatomic and proportionate rendition of the human body is still limited. Nevertheless, artists focused on more natural and realistic representations of human faces and fabrics, with the use of the shadowing technique in a more graduated way. At this time artists attempted a more precise approach to their figures lending them substance without the exaggerations of gestures and poses that were more typical of the Romanesque style.