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Psalter and New Testament (Dumbarton Oaks MS 3)

Middle Byzantine
ca. 1084
16.2 x 10.3 cm (6 3/8 x 4 1/16 in.)
tempera, gold leaf, and ink on vellum

Not on view


Additional Images
Click an image to view a larger version
Additional Image Folio 129r, Mark
Folio 129r, Mark
Additional Image Folio 151r, Luke
Folio 151r, Luke
Additional Image Folio 215r, The Twelve Apostles
Folio 215r, The Twelve Apostles
Additional Image Folio 250r, James
Folio 250r, James
Additional Image Folio 254v, Preface to the Epistles
Folio 254v, Preface to the Epistles
Additional Image Folio 261, John
Folio 261, John
Additional Image Folio 266v, Jude
Folio 266v, Jude
Additional Image Folio 269, Paul
Folio 269, Paul
Additional Image Folio 27r, Penitence of David
Folio 27r, Penitence of David
Additional Image Folio 330v, detail, marginal figures
Folio 330v, detail, marginal figures
Additional Image Folio 331v, detail, marginal figures
Folio 331v, detail, marginal figures
Additional Image Folio 39r, Christ Pantocrator
Folio 39r, Christ Pantocrator
Additional Image Folio 5r, Birth and Anointing of David
Folio 5r, Birth and Anointing of David
Additional Image Folio 5v, Portrait of David
Folio 5v, Portrait of David
Additional Image Folio 6r, David writing
Folio 6r, David writing
Additional Image Folio 71r, David and Goliath
Folio 71r, David and Goliath
Additional Image Folio 75, Prayer of Hannah
Folio 75, Prayer of Hannah
Additional Image Folio 77r, Prayer of Isaiah
Folio 77r, Prayer of Isaiah
Additional Image Folio 80v, Annunciation
Folio 80v, Annunciation
Additional Image Folio 81v, Hezekiah
Folio 81v, Hezekiah
Additional Image Folio 95r, Matthew
Folio 95r, Matthew

This manuscript was made to fit comfortably in the hand, although it contains all the Psalms, the Canticles, and the New Testament. Never very common, such compact manuscripts were primarily produced in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, reflecting the expression of personal piety that flourished at that time. Whereas all manuscripts are labor-intensive projects— requiring the preparation of vellum pages, the hand writing of text, the painting of illustrations, and the binding of the completed project—this is an especially luxurious book with a text written extensively in gold.

The manuscript is generously illustrated. It opens with an image of King David, author of the Psalms, and contains other illustrations of individual Psalms; then follow figures connected with poetic texts known as Canticles from the Old Testament; and finally portraits of Gospel and Letter writers of the New Testament. The Second Canticle of Moses is illustrated here, accompanying Deuteronomy 32: Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai from the hand of God. Moses’ sandals, which he was ordered to remove, are on the ground behind him and a personification of Mount Sinai is in the lower left corner. The bright, animated colors and Moses’ wind-blown drapery communicate some of the spiritual dynamism of this face-to-face encounter with God.

This manuscript can be dated to 1084 based on its Easter tables. These are a chronological list included in many medieval manuscripts to designate the day for Easter, the most important moveable feast day in the liturgical year. The Easter tables in this manuscript begin with the year 1084, providing the date when it was written, and continue on through 1101.

- S. Zwirn

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J. J. Tikkanen, Die Psalterillustration im Mittelalter. Bd. I. Die Psalterillustration in der Kunstgeschichte (Helsinki, 1895), 128.

C. R. Gregory, Textkritik des Neuen Testamentes (Leipzig, 1900-) vol. 3, 1154.

O. M. Dalton, Byzantine Art and Archaeology (Oxford, 1911), 470, fig. 277, 278.

H. Brockhaus, Die kunst in den Athos-klöstern, 2 ed. (Leipzig, 1924), 170f., 174f., 205f., fig. 14.

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F. Dölger, E. Weigand, and A. Deindl, Mönchsland Athos (Munich, 1943), 178, 180, fig. 98-101.

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C. Astruc, "Un psautier byzantin à frontispieces, le suppl. Gr. 610," Cahiers archéologiques 3 (1948): 106-13, esp. 110-113, fig. 4.

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K. Weitzmann, "A Constantinopolitan Lectionary, Morgan 639," in Studies in Art and Literature for Belle da Costa Greene, ed. D.E. Miner (Princeton, 1954), 358-73, esp. 359, 360, fig. 311.

S. der Nersessian, "Two Images of the Virgin in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 14 (1960): 69-86, esp. 77, fig. 4.

S. der Nersessian, "A Psalter and New Testament Manuscript at Dumbarton Oaks," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 19 (1965): 153-83.

Handbook of the Byzantine Collection (Washington, D.C., 1967), 106, no. 358.

Illuminated Greek Manuscripts from American Collections: an Exhibition in Honor of Kurt Weitzmann, ed. G. Vikan, exhibition catalogue, Art Museum Princeton University, April 14-May 20, 1973, (Princeton, 1973), 17, 100-103, 105, 106, 109, 120, no. 20, fig. 33-35.

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B. Outtier, "Les Prosermeneiai du Codex Bezae," in Codex Bezae: studies from the Lunel colloquium, June 1994 22, New Testament Tools and Studies, ed. D.C. Parker, C.-B. Amphoux and A.D. Callahan (Leiden, New York, 1996), 74-78, esp. 78.

A. Cutler and J. M. Spieser, Byzance médiévale, 700-1204, L'Univers des formes 41 (Paris, 1996), 374, pl. 304.

Mount Athos Treasures in Russia: Tenth to Seventeenth Centuries: from the Museums, Libraries and Archives of Moscow and the Moscow Region, ed. B.L. Fonkich, G.V. Popov, L.M. Evseeva and L.I. Antonova, exhibition catalogue, Central Andrei Rublev Museum, May 1 -July 4, 2004, (Moscow, 2004), 141, no. 2.10.

A. R. Littlewood, A. E. Laiou, F. E. Shlosser, and N. Metallinos, Byzantium: the Guardian of Hellenism, Hellenic Studies Lecture Series (Montréal, 2004), 112, fig. 1.

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J. Lowden, The Jaharis Gospel Lectionary: the Story of a Byzantine Book (New York and New Haven, 2009), 57, 63, 74, fig. 66, 71, 78.

W. J. T. Mitchell, "Que veulent réellement les images? Une théorie de la culture visuelle," in Penser l'image, ed. E. Alloa (Dijon, 2010).

G. R. Parpulov, "Psalters and Personal Piety in Byzantium," in The Old Testament in Byzantium, Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Symposia and Colloquia, ed. P. Magdalino and R.S. Nelson (Washington, D.C., 2010), 77-105, esp. 102-3, no. 2.

S. Curcic, "Structure, Agency, Ritual, and the Byzantine Church," in Architecture of the Sacred: Space, Ritual, and Experience from Classical Greece to Byzantium, ed. B.D. Wescoat and R.G. Ousterhout (Cambridge [England]; New York, 2012), xxiv, 385 p.

Claudia Schmolders, "Eye Level: The Linear Perspective in Face Perception." in En Face: Seven Essays on the Human Face, kritische berichte 1.2012, jahrgang 40: fig. 7

Exhibition History
Princeton, The Art Museum, Princeton University, "Illuminated Greek Manuscripts from American Collections, an Exhibition in Honor of Kurt Weitzmann," Apr. 14-May 20, 1973.

Acquisition History
Pantocrator Monastery, Mount Athos (Pantocrator No. 49).

Purchased from Roland Levy-Bosshard, Geneva, by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC, September 1962.

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Byzantine Collection, Washington D.C.