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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Images of charity, conflict, and kingship : the iconography of a pair of Crusader ivories Anderson, Patricia


A pair of mid-twelfth-century ivory plaques, carved in Jerusalem, and now in the British Library, are important both as the only known twelfth-century Crusader ivories, and as the one-time covers of Queen Melisende's Psalter (London, B.L. Egerton MS 1139; 1131-1143) — the most complete and lavishly illuminated manuscript to have survived from the first Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1187). Iconographically, the ivories are unique. On the front cover are two main sequences: scenes from the life of David, and images of the major Virtues and Vices -- cycles which are not usually portrayed in juxtaposition. On the back cover, a third major cycle, in which a king performs the six Acts of Mercy, is also noteworthy -- both for its unique association with the other two cycles, and for the number of its individual scenes, which makes it unrivalled among earlier or contemporary mercy cycles, in the completeness of its adherence to its textual source. This thesis is concerned with the textual and pictorial origins of these distinctive groups of images. Chapter II identifies the major and subordinate textual sources of the ivories' iconography, thus demonstrating the primarily narrative function of the images. The covers are also pictorially expressive of three themes — charity, conflict, and kingship — which, together, are conceptually related to the ideal and actuality of Davidic kingship in twelfth-century Jerusalem. Chapter III considers the specific artistic sources of the imagery, citing iconographically-comparable examples from Jerusalem and elsewhere. The ivories are found to have pictorial affinities with some contemporary manuscripts from Byzantium and Western Europe, and in this, they typify the dual artistic tradition that was the hallmark of the Jerusalem scriptorium in the mid-twelfth century. The ivories also depict several decorative motifs, characteristic of the local artistic tradition. The presence of such motifs not only confirms the previously-established Jerusalem, provenance of the ivories, but also becomes a means of differentiating between the two artists who carved them. Chapter IV briefly considers problems, mentioned in, or related to the concerns of, the two preceding chapters. Questions of style, dating, and patronage are somewhat elaborated, and suggestions are made for follow-up research. In explaining the narrative and thematic significance of their iconography, and in detailing their relationship to Byzantine, Western, and local artistic traditions, this study demonstrates that the ivory covers of the Melisende Psalter are both conceptually and pictorially characteristic of their time and place of origin.

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