The J. Paul Getty Museum

Initial B: David Playing the Harp and David and Goliath

Object Details


Initial B: David Playing the Harp and David and Goliath






Paris, France (Place Created)


about 1250–1260


Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. Ludwig VIII 4 (83.MK.95), fol. 28v


Leaf: 19.2 × 13.3 cm (7 9/16 × 5 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

The opening letter B dominates this page beginning the psalms. The succeeding letters of the first word of Psalm 1 follow in gold on the colored bands at the top and bottom: Beat[us] vir q[u]i n[on] abiit (Blessed is the man who does not walk ...).

Two scenes from the life of King David, the supposed author of the psalms, occupy the large initial B. In the page's bottom half, the youthful David faces the Philistine soldier Goliath. David's victory over Goliath led to King Saul's jealousy, which caused the king to attack David as the boy played the harp, as pictured in the top half of the letter. The lozenges and roundels around the perimeter of the design contain smaller scenes from David's life.

The Decorated Letter (July 21 to October 6, 1987)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), July 21 to October 6, 1987
The Psalms and Their Illustration (April 27 to July 3, 1993)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 27 to July 3, 1993
Manuscript Illumination of the 13th Century (January 21 to April 6, 1997)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), January 21 to April 6, 1997
The Book of Kings: Art, War, and the Morgan Library's Medieval Picture Bible (October 27 to December 29, 2002)
  • Walters Art Museum (Baltimore), October 27 to December 29, 2002
French Manuscript Illumination in the Middle Ages (January 23 to April 15, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 23 to April 15, 2007