David and the Ark of the Covenant


Heinrich Quentell ( German, 1501 )


Bartholomäus von Unckel ( German, 1484 )

late 15th century
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General Description

This hand-colored book page was removed from a copy of the Cologne Bible. In medieval Europe, hand-illustrated manuscripts were luxury objects that few could afford. Gutenberg’s introduction of the printing press in 1440 radically changed book production. Movable, reusable lettering enabled faster assembly of text passages that could in turn be reproduced with greater ease. The Cologne Bible was the first to be printed with more than 100 miniatures that break through columns of text. This format drastically altered the reader’s experience of text and image and influenced the design of subsequent European bibles. Although more affordable, early printed bibles were designed to look like vibrant handmade manuscripts. Here, the artist of this page has replicated a pen flourishing technique for the initial “U” at the middle left in order to introduce a new section of the text. As with the majority of illustrations in the Cologne Bible, this scene derives from the Old Testament (2 Samuel 6:1–12). King David, identified by his lyre and elaborate clothing, is taking the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.