The Tree of Jesse

Object Details

Title:

The Tree of Jesse

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

German

Place(s):

Würzburg, Germany (Place created)

Date:

about 1240 - 1250

Medium:

Tempera colors, gold leaf, and silver leaf on parchment

Dimensions:

Leaf: 22.7 x 15.7 cm (8 15/16 x 6 3/16 in.)

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In the Middle Ages, King David was considered to be the author of the psalms, leading to the frequent inclusion of the Tree of Jesse in psalters. In this manuscript, the tree is one of a series of full-page miniatures preceding the text of the psalms. The genealogical diagram of Christ's lineage from David's father Jesse was inspired by Isaiah's prophecy: "There will come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse and a flower will rise up out of his root." The rod (virga in Latin) was interpreted as the Virgin Mary (virge Maria in Latin) and the flower as Jesus. In this image, as was traditional in representations of this theme, Jesse appears as the root, from which sprouts a tree supporting the Virgin and Child. Above Jesse, two prophets hold scrolls with verses that were understood to refer to the Virgin. Along with two prophets whose scrolls were never filled in, they point towards the Virgin and Child. At the top of the tree, the Virgin presents an orb, symbol of the Messiah's dominion, while Jesus raises his hand in blessing.

Related Works
Exhibitions
Devotion and Desire: Views of Women in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (July 25 to October 8, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), July 25 to October 8, 1995, (Cat.)
Illuminating the Mind's Eye: Memory and Medieval Book Arts (July 23 to October 6, 1996)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), July 23 to October 6, 1996, (Cat.)
Temptation and Salvation: The Psalms of King David (June 9 to August 16, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), June 9 to August 16, 2009, (Cat.)