The J. Paul Getty Museum

Initial S: A Griffin and Rider

Object Details

Title:

Initial S: A Griffin and Rider

Artist/Maker:

Unknown

Culture:

German

Place:

Würzburg, Germany (Place Created)

Date:

about 1240–1250

Medium:

Tempera colors, gold leaf, and silver leaf on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. Ludwig VIII 2 (83.MK.93), fol. 76

Dimensions:

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

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Object Description

Playfully inventive, the artist transformed the opening letter S of Psalm 68 into a pink griffin. This dragonlike creature captures in its fearsome jaw a winged beast, which in turn bites the top of the griffin's snout. The young man struggling on the griffin's back twists as much as the letter itself, his actions emphasized by his billowing drapery. Within the tendrils of the vine scrolls that encircle the S,various objects--small animals, a small griffin, a doglike creature, and two heads attached to vines rather than to bodies--contribute to the sense of conflict.

This struggle of intertwining forms introduces the cry for help in the psalm's opening line at the bottom of the page: Salv[u]m me fac Deus q[uonia]m intraverunt aqu[a]e usq[ue] ad animam meam (Save me, oh God, for the waters come in unto my soul).

In Christian liturgical practice, the psalms are repeated on a weekly basis according to a set program, the liturgy of the Divine Office. Illuminated psalters facilitated this recitation by signaling each of the eight major textual divisions with large initials. The large initial S marks one of those eight textual divisions in this psalter.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Ars et Ingenium: The Illuminator's Craft and Genius (July 26 to October 9, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), July 26 to October 9, 1994
Masterpieces of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript illumination (December 16, 1997 to March 22, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to March 22, 1998
Five Hundred Years of Manuscript Illumination (February 11 to June 1, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 11 to June 1, 2003
Shrine and Shroud: Textiles in Illuminated Manuscripts (June 28 to October 2, 2005)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 28 to October 2, 2005
Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes (January 24 to May 28, 2017)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 24 to May 28, 2017