An Ironic Turn of Events; A Bounty; Tricks and Accusations
Old Testament miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions
390 x 300 mm
Purchased by J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1916
MS M.638 (fol. 6r)
The Crusader Bible, also known as the Morgan Picture Bible, the Maciejowski Bible, and the Shah ‘Abbas Bible, is not only one of greatest medieval manuscripts in the Morgan, it also ranks as one of the incomparable achievements of French Gothic illumination.
The miniatures represent one of the greatest visualizations of Old Testament events ever made. Some of the stories and their heroes are well known, but there are also accounts of other Israelites who fought for the Promised Land—stories that resonate to this day. There are incredibly violent battle scenes where the implements of war are so accurately depicted they could be replicated. And there are scenes not only of murder, everyday life, and love, but also of hate, envy, adultery, and rape—all set in the scenery and customs of thirteenth-century France.
An Ironic Turn of Events
The great famine that Joseph predicted having arrived, the new governor oversees the sale and distribution of Egypt's vast stores of corn. Following Jacob's order, Joseph's brothers travel to Egypt to buy corn. They do not recognize Joseph's face in the stern gaze of the governor, who chooses not to reveal his identity. Joseph accuses them of spying and imprisons them. All are released save one, who will serve as hostage until the brothers return with Benjamin. Benjamin is Joseph's only full brother, born after his adventures in Egypt. Having learned of Benjamin, Joseph demands to see him. (Genesis 42:6–20)
In Canaan, Jacob reluctantly agrees to Joseph's command. The brothers depart at right, led by Benjamin on a camel, and carry rich presents for the governor. (Genesis 43:11–14)
Tricks and Accusations
Again Joseph tests his brothers. They are allowed to depart with grain, but, secretly, Joseph has ordered a golden cup to be placed in Benjamin's sack. At right, stewards catch up with the group and accuse them of thievery. Benjamin is pulled roughly before Joseph by a steward who displays the evidence. The frightened brothers fall to their knees and beg for the governor's mercy. (Genesis 44:4–17)
Folio 6r (Latin)
Upper left: How when Joseph, having been made overseer over all the land of Egypt during the years of plenty which came as he had predicted, had collected an infinite amount of grain in immense storehouses which were built, and, during the following years of hunger which came over the whole world and over Egypt itself, was selling grain to the people for a high price, his brothers, having been sent by their father, came to Egypt. Knowing them but unknown to them, Joseph speaks roughly calling them spies and ordering them to fetch their youngest brother whom, as they were saying, they had left alone at home with their old father. Meanwhile he gave them the grain for which they came and furtively restored the money to each of their sacks (Genesis 41: 46 – 42: 24)
Upper right: How, having returned to their father, when they had told him all, they at length and with difficulty brought him to give them the youngest of his sons whom they brought with them as they returned to Egypt. (Genesis 42: 29 – 43: 14)
Lower left: How, having returned to Joseph, they offered him gifts and honored him. He was indeed brought to pity at the site of Benjamin. (Genesis 43: 26–30)
Lower right: How, Joseph, the money having been put in their sacks as before and a silver cup in Benjamin’s sack, orders that they be brought before him as they retire. (Genesis 44: 1–12)
Folio 6r (Persian)
Upper left margin: The coming of Joseph’s brethren from the famine of Canaan to Egypt in search of grain; Joseph’s recognition of his brothers; the hiding of gold in the wheat sacks; the accusation of theft; keeping them hostage until they bring the ransom from Jacob.
Upper right margin: Joseph’s brethren came to the father and requested the ransom, which [consisted of Benjamin] Joseph’s blood brother. They took him to Egypt and the rest of the true story manifested [itself].
Lower left margin: The arrival of the brethren in Egypt and their presentation to Joseph of the ransom [Benjamin] with gifts and offerings.
Lower right & lower right margin: And after they brought grain in order to leave for Canaan, Joseph, peace be upon him, wished to keep the ransom [Benjamin]. And it was the law that whoever was accused of theft must serve in slavery for one year. Thus in this manner the ransom was separated from the brethren and they returned to the father and increased the father’s sorrow.
Folio 6r (Judeo-Persian)
Upper left margin, furthest left: The arrival of the brothers from the famine of Canaan to Egypt in order to purchase corn and Joseph’s recognizing them.
Upper right margin, furthest right: The return of the brothers from Egypt wanting to carry off Benjamin from his father and [their] doing so.
Lower left, above Latin: The arrival of Joseph’s brothers from Canaan bringing Benjamin, along with gifts, before Joseph.
Lower right margin, furthest right: The hiding of the wheat measuring [cup] in Benjamin’s sack in order to detain Benjamin.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Persian translated by Sussan Babaie
Judeo-Persian translated by Vera Basch Moreen
Latin translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch