Initials for Hymn Gloria in excelsis
From the Corbie Psalter
Corbie, France, early 9th century
Bibliothèques d’Amiens Métropole, MS 18C
Perhaps the first great draftsmen of the Middle Ages were the anonymous artists-scribes who produced this psalter. The high degree of their skill and extraordinary creativity is apparent throughout in the decorated initials that adorn every psalm and canticle. Many, including this one, involve the ingenious use of figures who inhabit or interact with the letter, often enhancing the meaning of the text they begin. The “G” of the word “Gloria” contains a full-length image of Christ, his right hand raised in a gesture of blessing. The man holding the “O” lifts his face toward the text and opens his mouth in song. Presumably he is singing the very canticle inscribed on the page.