Picturing Kingship

History and Painting in the Psalter of Saint Louis

By (author) Harvey Stahl

Hardback - £78.95

Publication date:

18 March 2008

Length of book:

464 pages

Publisher

Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271028637

Picturing Kingship presents the first comprehensive art-historical study of the personal prayerbook of King Louis IX. The book approaches the St. Louis Psalter through a rich range of perspectives and methodologies and positions it within the contexts of its production and use. Not only is the manuscript’s production and structure given detailed study, but the king’s ways of handling his prayerbook—his habits of reading, looking, and praying—are also set forth in a compelling narrative of his view of his sacred responsibilities as king.

In the first half of the book, Stahl investigates the Psalter’s physical construction and development within the context of manuscript production in thirteenth-century Paris. The second half looks at the Psalter’s thematic and iconographic workings and the role of the king’s adviser—Vincent of Beauvais—in the Psalter’s shaping. Most important, though, the author delves into the meanings the Psalter might have held for the king, who was a crusader and so devout a Christian that he was canonized by Boniface VIII. Stahl makes it clear that the Psalter, already recognized as one of the true masterworks of thirteenth-century French culture, should also be recognized as a significant force in Louis IX’s life and reign.

“Harvey Stahl’s posthumous study of the St. Louis Psalter promises to take its place as one of the finest monographs ever published on a medieval illuminated manuscript. The psalter provided the backbone of the liturgy and the primary vehicle of private prayer and study before the Book of Hours. One of the best-known manuscripts of the entire Middle Ages, St. Louis’s psalter is also, astonishingly, among the least studied. Stahl’s monograph considers all aspects of the manuscript, from its codicology to its content. Above all, he expands our notion of the expressive and visual capacity of thirteenth-century illumination, which too often is dismissed as stylized mannerism. This is a glorious book on a glorious manuscript.”

—Jeffrey Hamburger, Harvard University