Le psautier de Saint Louis, Paris 13th century

Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Ms. Lat. 10525, fol. 17v

Louis IX, King of France, who was to be canonized after his death, understood himself as God’s deputy in the succession of Christ. A great event in the King’s life was his acquisition of Christ’s Crown of Thorns in 1239. In honor of the precious relic, Louis built the Sainte Chapelle in Paris (1243-48). The chapel became a symbol of his religious conception of politics and a climax in the spiritual development of Gothic architecture. Its companion piece in the painting is the small-sized Psalter, now comprising 260 parchment leaves with 78 gilded miniatures of various scenes from the Old Testament. The valuable manuscript was intended to be used for the liturgy in the Royal Holy Chapel. The architecture of the chapel provides the leading motif for all miniatures in the Psalter. Each picture represents, at least, two narrative scenes separated by slim Gothic columns. The present picture combines three events: Joseph ascends on a ladder to leave the well into which he had been thrown by his brothers (Moses, 37,25 ff.). In the absence of Ruben, Joseph is sold to some passing merchants. In the third scene (right) Ruben, who has come to rescue his brother, stands mournfully at the empty well. His figure is stressed like that of Joseph by the pointed head of the Israelite`s.