Scenes from the Life of David
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French, about 1250
Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment

12 13/16 x 11 7/16 in.

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This folio tells part of the biblical story of David and his rebellious son Absalom. In the upper left, King David, crowned and enthroned, is dismayed to hear the news that Absalom has conspired against him and invaded his lands. Unwilling to fight, David withdraws from his palace but leaves behind ten concubines to represent his household. On the right, Absalom consorts with his father's concubines, each arm draped around a different woman. His act is symbolic, indicating that his conquest over his father's kingdom is complete. The bottom part of the image shows David, barefoot and with his head covered in sorrow, followed by his distraught supporters.

The miniature is remarkable for its actual size-almost eleven inches tall-and its monumental quality. Keeping the forms simple, the illuminator stripped the story of all but the most necessary details. Strong, saturated colors, especially the bright blue and brilliant orange-red, give the illumination its sumptuous quality.

Detail Views

Clothing above Absalom
Clothing above Absalom

David's covered head