San Gall, Monastery Library, IX Century
David is depicted under an arch spanning two twisted columns, in front of a purple ground; he is beardless and clad in a short skirt. A young and active person, he does not really feel at ease on his throne with the slanted footstool in front of him. Gazing up to the top left, he appears about to use the plucking stick in his right hand to play the string instrument on his left thigh. David’s performance seems to be inspired by the angel in the left-hand spandrel of the surrounding arch. Seated high up in the arch, the young psalmist is the protagonist of the scene. The angel on the top left, and the Hand of God appearing in the right-hand spandrel of the arch are both pointing to him.
Smaller than David, thus at an appropriately reduced scale, two musicians accompany the psalmody of the ruler with their slap hand cymbals. Two men below them perform the dance of the veils. The miniature bear vivid evidence to the fact that the rituals, music and dances of Antiquity had not been forgotten in those days. In the Carolingian period, the psalmist still appears as a youthful king surrounded by musicians and dancers. He is even shown dancing himself, clad only in a light coat, as in the first Bible of Charles the Bald, the Vivian Bible made in 845/846 in Tours, now in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.