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The Morgan Leaf, from the Winchester Bible: Opening for the Book of 1 Samuel (r.); Frontispiece for 1 Samuel(?) with Life of David (v.)


Not on view

Opening for the Book of 1 Samuel: The Morgan Leaf
Known as the Morgan Leaf, this grand opening to the book of Samuel captures key moments in the text in brilliantly painted episodes. Beginning at lower left, Hannah, a wife of Elkanah, prays to give birth to a son and is blessed by the priest Eli. At upper right, she presents the child, Samuel, to Eli. The other scenes are from the life of Samuel: (center left) Samuel before Eli; (center right) the voice of God comes to Samuel while sleeping; (bottom left) Saul appears before Samuel; and (bottom right) Samuel anoints Saul with oil, making him the first King of Israel.
How the Morgan Leaf was part of the Winchester Bible has perplexed specialists for years. The underdrawing on both sides of the page is by the Master of the Apocrypha Drawings and the painting is by the Master of the Morgan Leaf. On this side, he was more faithful to the original composition. Many of his faces convey his refined, layered technique and skilled sensitivity.

Frontispiece for 1 Samuel(?) with Life of David
One of the grandest paintings of medieval art, this page dramatically tells the life of David. The narrative unfolds in three registers.
King Saul leads the army of Israel into combat with the brave young shepherd, David, who confronts the armed Philistine giant Goliath. David slays Goliath, causing the Philistines to flee, and then beheads the giant. At center, Saul, jealous of David’s triumph, attacks him with a javelin. David is made King of Israel and is anointed in the presence of the Israelites. Below is the death of David’s rebellious son Absalom, slain by David’s men, his father mourning at the news.
The Master of the Morgan Leaf completed this beautiful cycle over a design by the earlier Master of the Apocrypha Drawings. The Morgan Master’s style, teaming with an emergent classicism and a softer, yet still intense, color palette, imparts humanism and emotion—a fundamental new direction in European art about 1200.

The Morgan Leaf, from the Winchester Bible: Opening for the Book of 1 Samuel (r.); Frontispiece for 1 Samuel(?) with Life of David (v.), Tempera and gold on parchment, British

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