Lifelong Learning Programme

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Artists - ArtWorks

Name of the Artist / Artwork:

Luttrell Psalter

Country: United Kingdom
Century: 1300 - The 14th Century
Artist / Artwork Description:

The Luttrell Psalter was an illustrated manuscript with detailed pictures of English life in 14th century

Synthetic Chronology:

The Luttrell Psalter was written and illuminated from about 1325 for a land-owner, Sir Geoffrey Luttrell of Irnham in Lincolnshire.

The Context:

The Psalter is primarily a book of psalms and canticles in Latin written on pages of vellum in large, easily read letters.
It begins with a calendar, and ends with a litany for a church service and the Office of the Dead with musical notation.
The Psalter is full of very rich illuminated initial letters, detailed illustrations in the margins showing scenes of rural life and fascinating images of fantastic beasts and monsters.


The scribe would have used a quill and black ink on a parchment (vellum) made from stretched sheep hide. It is thought that the evenness of the calligraphy was achieved by working on a page ruled with finely drawn lines. The illustrations seem to be the work of a number of different painters: this is evident from the style of workmanship.

National Comparative:

Fragments of wall paintings, tapestries and carvings do remain, but such collections of images are rarely as comprehensive as those in illuminated manuscripts. This work is part of that tradition of illuminated manuscripts in the British Isles stretching back to the Book of Kells and Lindisfarne Gospels in the 7th and 8th centuries.

Artistic Analysis:

It is clear that, although the illustrations in the Luttrell Psalter were by several different artists, one stands out as being better than the others. He has become known as the Luttrell Master although little is known about him. The ‘Luttrell Master’ has created beautiful images using a lively sense of humour and colour. They have been copied and reproduced so often over the years that these images have profoundly influenced the popular image of medieval England. Even a film has been made to bring these possibly idealized pictures to life. (See the eLearning website evaluations)

Transnational Comparative Analysis:

Examples of illuminated manuscripts similar in content and style may be found in many places in Christian Europe at this time and earlier. In Britain, however, they contain some of the few records of daily life or historic events that are often seen in mosaics, church sculptures, frescoes and stained glass windows in other parts of Europe. For example it might be interesting to compare the Luttrell Psalter version of the Death of Thomas Becket with the stained glass window images in Chartres Cathedral in France.
Similarly the use of imagined monsters, inspiring visions of hell, occurs in religious art (paintings, gargoyles, carvings etc) across Europe.

Development of the artist's work through the years:

The Luttrell Psalter was probably created over a period of several years, by a scribe or scribes and a team of illustrators. These people would probably have been professional artists rather than monks like Matthew Paris in the previous century.


English becomes official accepted language during this century. and the Luttrell Psalter appears to mark that national confidence. It is an excellent example of manuscript art, full of images of medieval rural England. It is in a good state of preservation and covers a wide range of subjects: scenes from the Bible, scenes from the lives of the saints, scenes of daily life on Sir Geoffrey’s Estates and a fantastic collection of strange monsters.
See also the Wilton Diptych, a religious painting made for Richard II by an unknown artist of late 14th century.


The Luttrell Psalter, a Facsimile. Commentary by Michelle P. Browne. (The British Library. 2006)
Mirror in Parchment. Michael Camille (Reaktion Books 1998)

Related Material:

Image available

File name: 108_Luttrell Psalter2.jpg

Description of the material:

A richly decorated page from the Luttrell Psalter which shows an ornate capital letter ‘D’ in the manuscript, a strange two-headed monster and a scene of a sheepfold with two women carrying pots

Contextualisation Of the source:

The manuscript can be seen in the British Library and a virtual visit can be made through the ‘Turning the pages’ (ttp) section of the British Library website – please see web evaluations. There is also detailed analysis of this page (page 163 verso) at

Interpretation of the source:

This is an excellent example of the art of Medieval manuscript showing the richness of decoration within the text of the psalm, secular contemporary detail and the religious symbolism of the monster. The image of sheep would not only carry religious symbolism related to the text, but reflect the importance of the animal to medieval farming and society. Indeed, the vellum itself, on which the manuscript was written, had come from sheep hide.

File name: 108_LuttrellPsalter1.jpg

Description of the material:

A richly decorated page from the Luttrell Psalter, with part of Psalm 108 in Latin. The figure is an image of Sir Geoffrey Luttrell an English landowner who commissioned the work to be made between 1325-35. The Latin inscription above him says Dns Galfridus louterell me fieri fecit – Lord Geoffrey Luttrell had me made –showing that he was the patron.

Contextualisation Of the source:

The illustration is from but see British Library sites ( for more information, illustrations and virtual visit to the book.

Interpretation of the source:

The miniature in the lower half of the picture shows Sir Geoffrey Luttrell, mounted, with his wife and daughter-in-law. All three are dressed in livery bearing his Coat of Arms, as is the horse. At the end of the text of the psalm is a strange fish-like creature with a human head.

Comments about this Artist/ArtWork

Date: 2009.09.07

Posted by Sylvia Rowińska

Message: The Luttrell Psalter is one of the most famous manuscripts in the world with its presentation of everyday life scenes as well as religious images. The decoration on the manuscript margins is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for describing it. Unfortunately at school we usually do not teach about these magnificent art works just because they are not in our programmes. I am personally an amateur besides an art teacher and this is why I knew it so well.

Michelangelo - Copyright 2008 - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission

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