Initial B: Christ in Majesty and David with Musicians

Unknownabout 1240–1250

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

The Book of Psalms begins with the words Beatus vir (Happy is the man). To mark the beginning of the text of the psalms in manuscripts, an entire page is often devoted to the initial B from this verse, almost always richly illuminated. In this psalter, King David, who was believed to have written the psalms, sits in the lower lobe of the initial B. The artist presents David in his role as composer of the psalms, aided by two musicians, one with a harp, the other with a lyre. David sits enthroned in the center, aligned with the figure of Jesus blessing above. This typological arrangement presents David as an Old Testament prefiguration of Christ.

The artist created an elaborate design to introduce the text of the psalms. Blue bands decorated with silver and held together by a biting animal head and gold clasps form the basic shape of the letter, which is entwined in curling tendrils of green, red, and purple. Animals and human forms inhabit these vine scrolls. The brilliant deep colors and the figures' sumptuous dress add to the majesty of the image.


  • Title: Initial B: Christ in Majesty and David with Musicians
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: about 1240–1250
  • Location Created: Würzburg, Germany
  • Physical Dimensions: Leaf: 22.7 × 15.7 cm (8 15/16 × 6 3/16 in.)
  • Type: Folio
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Tempera colors, gold leaf, and silver leaf on parchment
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 83.MK.93.11v
  • Culture: German
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig VIII 2, fol. 11v
  • Creator Display Name: Unknown
  • Classification: Manuscripts (Documents)

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