Illuminations from the Macedonian Renaissance of the 9th Century

Here are some folios from the Paris Psalter. An anonymous reader brought these to my attention because he thought I might be interested in the similarity in style to the 6th-century Mesopotamian illumination I featured last week.

The Paris Psalter is not French! It was procured by the French ambassador to Constantinople around 1550. The city was in the hands of the Ottomans at this time. They date from a period of Greek art known as the Macedonian Renaissance in which there is a flourishing of a more naturalistic style of iconography which clearly draws on antique classical style. It is this style of iconography that inspired the Romanesque style in the West which is, as with these, an authentic iconographic tradition. 

Many modern iconographers look to this period for inspiration, because it is felt that the naturalism would appeal the modern eye. The highly abstracted Russian style of the 15th century, for example, though well known can be too abstracted for some, it is felt.

Here, for example, is David composing the psalms.

David Composing the Psalms

David Composing the Psalms

David and Goliath

David and Goliath

These are large - approximately 14' x 10'. Things that struck me about these, are that there is some naturalistic perspective here, even down to color perspective - see how the distant objects are blue. In this sense, they are reminiscent of the style of frescoes of 1st century Pompeii that I have seen.

Nevertheless, the handling of the perspective is still enough off-natural to be iconographic, it seems to me. The relative sizes of the figures do not change from foreground to distance, for example. I would love to know how Eastern Christians view these images. Do you consider these authentically iconographic or do you feel they push the envelope too far into naturalism?

Notice also how Roman the clothing looks also and the beautiful and intricate border patterns.

David Glorified by the Women of Isreal

The Healing of Hezekias

Isaias's Prayer

The Reproach of Nathan and the Penance of King David

Hannah's Prayer