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.

Lightbox: 58
Detail of the noblewoman under magnification (7.5x). The FORS spectrum (below) shows the characteristic absorption bands of azurite at 1496, 2285 and 2352 nm.
Lightbox: 59
Detail of Doeg’s grey-blue tunic under magnification (7.5x). The FORS spectrum (below) shows the characteristic features of indigo: an asymmetric peak in the visible range, a reflectance minimum at 662 nm, and a transition edge at 710 nm. The presence of lead white is revealed by the absorption band at 1444 nm.
Lightbox: 60
Detail of the wild man under magnification (7.5x). There is a noticeable loss of paint in the groin area. The damage is selective, which suggests that the paint was scraped off by a censorious, post-medieval owner.

This initial deviates from the typical subject matter for Psalm 38 in the traditional English cycle. Instead of showing the Judgment of Solomon, it shows the story of King Saul ordering Doeg to murder Achimelech and his fellow priests of Nob. The jealous king decided to kill the priests because he was angry that they had offered refuge to his rival, David. Saul assigned the task to Doeg, his chief herdsman, when his soldiers (represented here by a fully armed knight), refused to carry out his orders. The initial extends into a full foliate border featuring a bust within a medallion. A mounted knight, a noblewoman cradling her lap dog, and a wild man are depicted in the bas-de-page scene.

This page contains both blue pigments found in the manuscript: azurite, used extensively here in the borders and in the tunics of King Saul and the noblewoman shown in the lower margin (hotspot 1); and indigo, found in Doeg’s grey-blue tunic (hotspot 2) and in the horse. The wild man’s grey-green flesh tone was instead obtained with verdigris (hotspot 3).