The Psalter of Blanche of Castile is an exquisite Gothic example of Parisian book illumination. The codex, also known as Sainte-Chapelle Psalter, was created in the first quarter of the 13th century and features 27 beautifully illuminated full-page miniatures, 9 historiated initials and 24 calendar medallions.
A Royal Manuscript
Written in Latin, the Psalter of Blanche of Castile was created between 1200 and 1230, however, the identity of the recipient remains in doubt. Most scholars believe the manuscript was made for Blanche of Castile, Queen of France and mother of Louis IX.
According to this view the lady kneeling in front of the altar on f. 122v. is Blanche, uncrowned because she ascended the throne in 1223, after the psalter was finished.
Whether the manuscript was commissioned for Blanche or passed to her at a later time, what is certain is that the creation of this charming psalter was meant as a gift to a noble lady, proved by the opulent use of gold and the title in a prayer on f. 190r. featuring the words miserrimam peccatricem (the most miserable sinner).
A Masterpiece of French Gothic
Almost to remind the reader of the unbelievable windows of French cathedrals, the iconography of the Psalter of Sainte-Chapelle is tremendously detailed featuring countless decorations and drolleries such as birds, dogs, and dragons. The miniatures, with their color and luminosity, are a testament to the craftsmanship of artists part of the Paris school.
The Psalter of Blanche of Castile was kept in the treasury of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris from 1335 until the end of the 18th century, when it was brought to the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal.
A magnificent chemise embroidered with golden fleurs de lys and commissioned by Charles V protects the cover, which is one of the few extant testimonies of Romanesque book binding.