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Initial S: A Monk Praying in the Water
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Unknown
Italian, Northeastern Italy, about 1420
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
Leaf (approx.): 18 5/16 x 13 5/8 in.
MS. 24, LEAF 2

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A monk engulfed in water clings to the central curve of an initial S that begins the first verse of Psalm 68, "Save me, O God: for the waters are come in even unto my soul." Once part of a manuscript used in monastic church services, the large scale of this leaf coupled with the size of its script made it practical for reading by a group of monks standing together at a lectern. Instead of the usual figure pictured for this psalm--King David, the purported author of the Psalms--the illuminator substituted a Benedictine monk to appeal to the monastic community who owned this manuscript and who read and sang from it.