May 9, 2006

Leaf from a Book of Hours: King David

Leaf from a Book of Hours: King David

c. 1500

circle of Jean Bourdichon

(French, c. 1457–1521)

Ink, tempera, and gold on parchment

Sheet: 27.5 x 20.2 cm (10 13/16 x 7 15/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1985.81



The illuminator Jean Bourdichon was court painter to four successive kings of France: Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I. On the basis of surviving documents, he seems to have been principally active between 1478 and 1520. The text is that of Psalm 50 beginning Miserere mei deus (Have mercy on me, O God), and one of the Seven Penitential Psalms found in medieval books of hours. It is the life of David, who according to tradition, was the author of the psalms, that dominates the miniatures for the Penitential Psalms. As a proud and powerful king who flagrantly committed both adultery and murder, David was struck down and reprimanded by God. The Penitential Psalms themselves, especially Psalm 50, are associated with his penance for these sins.

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