Tag Archives: Medieval art

Wanderings into the Long Ago

My brain is still fried. Now we’re starting to plan a big move. As in moving all our stuff, two little kids, and two old cranky cats about 2,200 miles away. And finding a place to live, and a school for the kids, and, and. . . .

So, to take my mind off that and all the work piling up that I’m not sure I can get done between packing and traveling, I’ve been web surfing, of course.

Now, Dr. Nokes and Mr. Pyrdum have been entertaining me recently with their humorous (and I don’t mean the Four Humors) medieval bloggery. And of course my old SCA friends and their English country dancing. Somehow the other day I was thinking of all this, and remembering several mentions of the Luttrell Psalter. (Probably at least one from Mr. Pyrdum’s wonderful series, Mmm . . . Marginalia.)

This is an illuminated book of Psalms from 14th-century England. Aside from its overall beauty, it is remarkable for its marginalia: little paintings in all the margins, only some of which seem to relate to the text at hand.

I love this book. It’s like all of my little hobbies and interests got wrapped up in vellum.

First it lulls us into complacency with how people lived:*

Plowing with oxen

Roasting some dinner

Feasting on the dinner**

Stealing some cherries (must remove shoes to climb trees!)

Then we might notice some beautiful renderings of animals:

Proto-Flopsy Bunnies

Huginn and Muninn?***

My, it’s crowded in here. But at least there are dancing ladies to entertain us. Baaa!

No fleas on me!

Proto-Jemima Puddleduck

And then, things start to get a little bit silly:

I am sick (bang!) to death (oof!) of this distaff (ouch!) and spindle! Invent the Great Wheel (aagh!) already!

Early multitasking. Unlike cats, the chickens won’t play with your yarn while you’re spinning in the farmyard, evidently.

Even during the busy harvest season, sometimes you just gotta get funky!

And yet more multitasking.

And then, just when we think those medieval monkish scribe types were just fooling around a little, there are the . . . oddities:

It’s a snail! It’s a bird! I must be high!

All this, and balding too?

You’d be grumpy too if you had a beak like that AND a tentacle on your head.

He’s got a head at both ends, cloven feet, and a swirly skirt. And he’s a damn fine musician!

For a closer look at more amazing images from this book, look here and click on “Turning the Pages” in the right sidebar.

* * * * *

*The description on the British Library site points out that the images are probably idealized in favor of Lord Luttrell’s worldview. Hence, all the happy peasants.

**Lord Luttrell himself, and family. Note the handy earflaps on his hat! Those medieval nobles were nothing if not practical.

***Extra points if you knew who they were before clicking the link.

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Filed under art, Books, Silliness and Mayhem