Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

David's Victory

Folio 95r

Jean Colombe's miniature illustrates Psalm XXIX, which begins the third nocturn for the dead: "Exaltabo te, Domine... " "I will extol thee, O Lord, for thou hast upheld me: and hast made my enemies to rejoice over me."
David composed this hymn of thanksgiving after his victory over the Jebusites and the capture of their citadel, which became the site of Jerusalem. For the Office of the Dead, the Church has interpreted the psalm symbolically, applying the second and third verses to the deceased: "O Lord my God, I have cried to thee, and thou has healed me. Thou has brought forth, O Lord, my soul from hell: thou has saved me from them that go down into the pit."
This is one of Colombe's better miniatures, in which he has treated the difficult subject of a melee, successfully rendering the different movements of the opposed horsemen, the fallen horses and men, one of whom is pierced with a lance, and the opening on the left made by golden riders through the black mass of the enemy.
Only in the battle's background did he lapse into his overworked formula of aligning similar heads on the same level. The contrast of gold and black combatants seems to symbolize the meaning given Psalm XXIX by the Church.
The gray-black tone of the enemy is that usually employed by miniaturists (the Limbourgs as well as Jean Colombe) to represent the devil, who, in the religious language of the day, was by definition the Enemy.
Behind this symbolic but realistic battle is one of Jean Colombe's most beautiful landscapes, whose varied planes recede in the distance. Here, as in other miniatures, the setting was probably inspired by some winding lake in Savoie, such as the Lac du Bourget.
In order to use the whole page, the artist erased the few lines of text at the bottom making an amusing error when he rewrote in a scroll on the base, "Exultabo, " or "I will rejoice," instead of "Exaltabo te" "I will extol thee."

small image (30KB) --- large image (286KB) --- Landscape detail (large) (232KB) --- The battle scene (large) (261KB)

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