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Leaf from Carrow Psalter: Martyrdom of Thomas Becket
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Leaf from Carrow Psalter: Martyrdom of Thomas Becket


Description Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description This miniature from an English Psalter presents a spirited account of the murder of Thomas Becket. Three of the four knights attack the archbishop, who is kneeling in prayer before the altar. One of the knights kicks Thomas to the floor, and sends his miter flying as his sword strikes Thomas's head. This English manuscript was made in East Anglia in the mid-thirteenth century for a patron with special veneration for St. Olaf, whose life and martyrdom are prominently portrayed in the Beatus initial of Psalm 1. Known as the "Carrow Psalter" due to its later use by the nunnery of Carrow near Norwich, it is more accurately described as a psalter-hours, as it contains, among other texts, the Office of the Dead and the Hours of the Virgin. The manuscript is striking for its rich variety of illuminations, including full-page cycles of saints, martyrs, and biblical scenes, as well as historiated initials within the Psalter, and heraldry added in the fifteenth century to undecorated initials in the Hours of the Virgin. Especially notable is this miniature portraying the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, for after Henry VIII found him guilty of treason in 1538, his image was concealed by gluing a piece of paper over it rather than destroying it, and it has since been rediscovered.
Exhibitions
  • Illuminated Manuscripts: Masterpieces in Miniature. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1984-1985.
Provenance Made in East Anglia, England, mid-13th century; Carrow Priory, Norwich, 15th century [recorded in a 14th or 15th century inscription on fol. 1r]; John Baptist, 3rd Lord Caryll (1716-1780) [his bookplate recorded in 1902, but is no longer extant] [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; George Galway Mills, before 1800 [mode of acquisition unknown]; Mills Sale, London, February 24, 1800; Reverend David T. Powell, first half 19th century [mode of acquisition unknown]; Powell Sale, London, July 31, 1848; 4th Earl of Ashburnham (1797-1878) [Appendix no. XXXIII, his bookplate] [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Henry Yates Thompson, 1899 [his bookplate] [mode of acquisition unknown]; Yates Thompson Sale, Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge, 23 March 1920, [no. 34]; Quaritch, 1920, by purchase; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1920, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters

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Creator
Period
ca. 1250 (Medieval)
Medium
ink and paint on medium-weight cream-colored parchment; slightly heavier-weight parchment used for full-page miniatures
(Manuscripts & Rare Books)
Accession Number
W.34.15V
Measurements
Folio H: 9 3/4 × W: 6 15/16 in. (24.7 × 17.6 cm)
Geographies
Location Within Museum
Not On View

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