(active around 845 in Tours)
Vivian Biblec. 845
Manuscript (Ms. lat. 1), 495 x 345 mm
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
During the Carolingian era, St. Martin's Abbey in Tours was a major centre of book illumination. Its great achievements during the ninth century were closely related to sources at Charlemagne's court school in Aachen. The present book, known as the First Bible of Charles the Bald, takes its name from Count Vivian, the lay abbot of the Abbey from 844 to 851, who commissioned it and presented to Charles the Bald in 846 on a visit to the church, as shown in the presentation miniature at the end of the book.
This single-volume Bible was created as part of a half-century-long undertaking managed by Alcuin, Abbot of St Martin, to produce one-volume manuscripts of the whole of Scripture (including prefatory material) written in clear Carolingian minuscule.
The manuscript contains 423 folios with 8 full-page miniatures, 4 canon tables and 87 initials. Of the various artists who worked on the illustrations, one stands out, the master who created the St Jerome (folio 3v), the David (folio 215v), the Majestas Domini (folio 329) images and the dedication picture (folio 422v). He is known as 'Master C', and adjudged the greatest book painter of the entire Carolingian era.
The picture shows folio 215v with the Old Testament king and prophet David. He is in a mandorla-shaped disc, playing almost naked upon the harp. He is flanked by two bodyguards (probably Cerethi and Pelethi), and also by four musicians, known as composers of psalms (Ethan, Iduthin, Asaph and Eman). In the corners of the rectangular frame are allegories of the four cardinal virtues Prudentia, Justitia, Fortitudo and Temperantia.