By Ann Buckley
Records of Meath Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol.19 (2008)
Introduction: The most common figure representing musical performance in medieval religious iconography is King David, Old Testament prophet, musician, and author of the Psalms. His appearance in Insular art emerged in the eighth century as the scope of the iconographic programme was beginning to widen. At this time Eastern Christian influences were strongest, as witness, for example, the Book of Kells (8th-9th century, which may have been produced on Iona), and Mercian stone sculpture. David is depicted prominently in all of the surviving early Insular psalters where (with the exception of the Southampton Psalter) he is included in his role of Psalmist.
In these and in figural sculpture he is shown typically with a stringed instrument, occasionally in the company of a wind instrument player, but rarely with his full complement of four assistants, Asaph, Eman, Ethan and Idithun – a point of difference with many continental manuscript illustration.