The Macclesfield Psalter

Modelling of draperies

Artists' Techniques

Pink, purple, green and blue draperies were modelled with gradations of colour. Orange robes, on the other hand, have a homogeneous base layer over which the artist applied a red dye. Only in a few instances were dark outlines added as a final step; in most cases, it is the contrast between white and colour – or between orange and red – which defines the drapery folds.

A particular modelling technique, observed for example on fols. 1v and 77r, involves the juxtaposition of mosaic gold and verdigris.

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Detail of the gilded background of the initial under magnification (7.5x). Punched dots and scratches can be seen across the gold leaf. A loss of a small piece of gold leaf near the dog’s face reveals the light-coloured ground layer.
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Detail of the yellow hair of the figure in the upper border under magnification (7.5x).
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Detail of the wings of the angel playing a musical instrument under magnification (7.5x). The metallic shine of his wings is due to the presence of mosaic gold, identified by the high amounts of sulphur (S) and tin (Sn) detected by XRF (below).

The angel announces Christ’s birth to the shepherds in the historiated initial for Psalm 97, whose opening verses were interpreted as a prophecy of the Incarnation and sung at the feast of the Nativity. The Annunciation to the Shepherds was the standard subject-matter for Psalm 97 in the traditional English pictorial cycle, to which the Macclesfield Psalter conforms. The initial extends into a full bar border incorporating bearded hybrids, the head of a woman within a medallion, and an angel. A courting couple is depicted in the bas-de-page.   

This page showcases the use of gold and yellow pigments in this manuscript. The historiated initial as well as the borders have gilded backgrounds, where gold leaf was applied over a chalk ground and then burnished and decorated with punched dots (hotspot 1). Yellow, used sparingly across the manuscript, was obtained here in two different ways: the light hair of the figures contains a yellow dye (hotspot 2), while mosaic gold was used in the wings of the angel playing a musical instrument (hotspot 3).