An internationally famous illuminated manuscript made c.1335–45 and known as the Luttrell Psalter,will be on show at a spectacular exhibition in Lincoln from 27 June until 27 September.
Produced for Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, the wealthy lord of the manor at Irnham, near Grantham, it contains the 150 psalms of the Old Testament, along with beautiful illustrations depicting medieval Lincolnshire people going about their daily tasks in the 1330s. Among its best-known images is that of Sir Geoffrey mounted on a warhorse and resplendent in a panoply of heraldic display attended by his wife and daughter-in-law.
This image has always interested stained-glass historians. Professor Richard Marks of the British CVMA has found that it belongs to a group of four closely related compositions that includes tomb effigies and a now-lost image in glass, formerly in the lower part of the east window of the parish church of St Peter at Drayton Bassett (Staffordshire). This showed a kneeling lady presenting a crested helmet to a standing knight who held a banner with, to the left, a youthful groom or page holding the reins of his destrier or war horse. The glass has been dated to the 1340s, and the figures identified as Ralph, Lord Bassett of Drayton and his wife, Joan, the daughter of John, Lord Grey of Wilton. Although the four images are radically different from standard parochial patron imagery of the period, they are bound together by the particular way in which they represent the donor and express his power and status. The inclusion of women in the Drayton Bassett glass and the Luttrell Psalter adds another layer to the meaning of these images, referring to the virtues of chivalry and the values of the knightly class.
The Psalter is on loan from the British Library and will be one of the star attractions in ‘Lincolnshire’s Great Exhibition’, an event that features over 150 Lincolnshire-related exhibits displayed in four venues in the city – the Usher Gallery, The Collection Museum, Lincoln Cathedral Library, and Lincoln Castle. Other highlights include an original copy of the Magna Carta brought back to the cathedral by Bishop Hugh of Wells, who had been present at its sealing by King John in 1215, as well as paintings, etchings, maps, illuminated manuscripts and letters, famous jewels, racing trophies, seals, ceremonial artefacts and carvings dating from the 1090s to the 1990s. The exhibition has two honorary curators, Dr Alan Borg, former director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Jeff James, chief executive and keeper of The National Archives. A joint ticket can be purchased for the castle and cathedral, but the majority of the exhibition will be displayed in The Collection museum and the Usher Gallery, where admission will be free.
Richard Marks, ‘Sir Geoffrey Luttrell and Some Companions: images of Chivalry, c.1329-50’, reprinted in R. Marks, Studies in the Art and Imagery of the Middle Ages, London, 2012, pp. 657–81