No CrossRef data available.
David, Bathsheba, and the Penitential Psalms*
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 November 2018
This essay examines the illustrations that accompanied the seven Penitential Psalms in medieval and Renaissance Books of Hours. Until the end of the fifteenth century, the Penitential Psalms were glossed visually by a wide range of subjects, including the Last Judgment, Christ enthroned, David playing a musical instrument, and (most commonly) David repenting for his sins. But from the beginning of the sixteenth century it became customary to represent the Penitential Psalms with an image of David observing Bathsheba as she bathes. Moreover, the subject of David and Bathsheba rapidly migrated from Books of Hours into a variety of devotional, catechetical, and educational texts. It even crossed the Atlantic to colonial America, where, in The New England Primer, it was used to teach young children how to read. These facts not only suggest a shift in attitudes towards penance and sin at the end of the Middle Ages, but also challenge modern assumptions about the historical relationship between sexuality, catechesis, and literacy.
- Renaissance Quarterly , Volume 57 , Issue 4 , Winter 2004 , pp. 1235 - 1277
- Copyright © Renaissance Society of America 2004
I am enormously indebted to Peter Stallybrass, whose comments on earlier versions of this essay helped considerably to shape its final form. My interlocutors at the Barnard College Medieval and Renaissance Conference (December 2002), the University of Pennsylvania Medieval and Renaissance Seminar (January 2003), the University of Pennsylvania Graduate Humanities Forum Conference (April 2003), and the Princeton University Graduate Student Book History Conference (February 2004), offered provocative feedback. I am thankful for additional input and support from Alan E. Costley, Erika Crawford, Margreta de Grazia, Genelle Gertz-Robinson, Stephanie Gibbs, Marissa Greenberg, Emily Greenwood, Paul F. Grendler, Rayna Kalas, Michelle Karnes, Tim Krause, Anne Lake Prescott, Michael Reeve, Jeffrey Chipps Smith, David Wallace, and an anonymous RQ reader. I have benefited greatly from the patience and kindness of many librarians and curators, including Colum P. Hourihane, Joanne Kennedy, Cornelia King, John Pollack, Joël Sartorius, and Don C. Skemer. My research was facilitated by a Harvey Fellowship and a University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences Dissertation Fellowship.
Rare Book Department, The Free Library of Philadelphia