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Illuminated Manuscripts
5.6 Psalter
Vatopedi Cod. 761
Parchment and paper, 12 x 9.5 cm, ff. 236


The Original New Testament

In addition to the Psalter, this codex contains nine Odes, Prayers and the Easter tables. Six paper pages have been added after folio 230, with four pictures and a text with prayers. The single-column text, of twenty lines, is written in minuscule script with gold titles. The later, red leather binding has stamped portrayals of the Prophet David on the front and the Mother and Child on the back.

The notes in the manuscript (fols. 1v, 2v, 231r) are of later date. On fol. 2v there is an allusion to the Emperor Constantine Monomachos (1042-55).

The Psalter's principal, original illumination includes selected scenes from the life of David, such as David playing the lyre while watching his flock (fol. 11r), David and the lion (fol. 11v), David being anointed king (fol. 12r), David and Goliath (fol. 12v), David beheading Goliath (fol. 13r), David returning victorious to Jerusalem (fol. 13v), the Coronation of David (fol. 14r) and David among the Psalmists (fol. 14v). There is also a representation of the Passage of the Red Sea, which illustrates the relevant text from Exodus (fol. 206v). The decoration is completed with headpieces and initials.

The pictures in the paper section are unframed, lack a background and are executed in a folk style. They portray the Virgin and Child between the Archangels Michael and Gabriel (fol. 231v), John Chrysostom with Proclus (fol. 232r), Sts Gregory Palamas, Demetrios and David of Thessaloniki (fol. 232v) and the martyrdom of St Demetrios (fol. 233r).

The parchment section of the manuscript can be dated to 1088 from the Easter table, a date that accords with the style of execution of the figures. The colours are rich and bright, and the gold background brilliant, but the miniatures lack the inspiration that would ascribe them to a first-rate workshop or artist. Rather they are fine and careful work by a provincial workshop.

Bibliography: Brockhaus 1891, p. 174 and passim. Tikkanen 1895, p. 128 and passim. Eustratiadis - Arkadios 1924, p. 150. Weitzmann 1947, pp. 21ff. Weitzmann 1970², pp. 179-80. Mavropoulou-Tsioumi 1974 (1), pp. 105-12. Cutler 1984, pp. 26-9. Thesauroi 1991, p. 292 (with earlier bibliography), figs. 205-13. Galavaris 1995 (2), pp. 26, 232-3, pls. 94-7.

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