Harley MS 2904
The delicate line drawings inspired by the arrival in Britain of the Utrecht Psalter are among my favourite works of art in any medium. Though scarcely more than breathed on to the page, their figures have an explosive vitality that goes back through that manuscript to the Classical style of late-Roman Christian art.
This Crucifixion is unusual among its contemporaries in that Christ is shown almost without passion. Here is the steadfast, undefeated Christ of the Dream of the Rood and the Gospel of St John. The Virgin, however, shivers in agony. Hunched over and soaked by tears, she hovers on pathetically tiny feet, a diminished figure annihilated by grief.
By contrast, St John raises his face to Christ's with what seems an impossible smile. He gestures toward a scroll bearing words that take us to the heart of his Gospel: that humanity's salvation is through Christ's death and Resurrection. Is this still the nub of my faith? Today, when we are familiar with other religions as profound as Christianity, I would have to rephrase it: our salvation must lie in following an exemplum as wise and as simple, as tragic and as triumphant, as this one.
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Record Number: c1979-08
Shelfmark: Harley 2904 Page Folio Number: f.3v
Description: [Whole folio] The Crucifixion; with the Virgin, and St. John inscribing his testimony on a scroll
Title of Work: Ramsey Psalter
Production: England [Winchester[; between 980 and 1000
Language/Script: Latin / -
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