Noah Builds an Ark; Searching for Dry Land; A Joyous Landing; A New Beginning
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. 2v)
The Crusader Bible, also known as the Morgan Picture Bible, the Maciejowski Bible, and the Shah ‘Abbas Bible, is not only one of the 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 less familiar Israelites who fought for the Promised Land—tales that resonate to this day. There are incredibly violent battle scenes in which the implements of war are so accurately depicted they could be replicated. And there are scenes of everyday life, love, hate, and envy, as well as adultery, rape, and murder—all set in thirteenth-century France.
Noah Builds an Ark
The Lord is distraught at the wickedness of men and orders a great flood to eliminate them from the earth. Only Noah finds grace in the eyes of God. In obedience to the Lord, Noah builds an enormous ark for the salvation of his family and the world's creatures. (Genesis 6:13–17)
Searching for Dry Land
Once the storm calms, Noah releases a dove and a raven. The hungry raven is keen to feed on a floating corpse, but the dove soon returns from his survey bearing an olive branch, news of dry land. (Genesis 8:6–11)
A Joyous Landing
Soon the ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat, where Noah, his family, and the animals descend to land as the birds happily escape through the ship's open windows. (Genesis 8:18–19)
A New Beginning
Grateful, the family makes sacrifices to the Lord, and a new covenant is made: nevermore will the Lord curse the earth for the sake of the sinfulness of man. (Genesis 8:20–9:15)
Folio 2v (Latin)
Upper left: How God announces the impending flood to Noah, instructing him to make an ark for himself in which he may be saved, as the latter follows God’s instruction. (Genesis 6: 12–22)
Upper right: How Noah, his wife, his three sons and three daughters-in-law come into the ark, accompanied by two or seven of every kind of the animals of the earth and the winged fowl. And how at length, after he had sent a raven to reconnoiter which, having found a cadaver, did not return, Noah eventually sent a dove that returned bringing back an olive branch in her mouth. (Genesis 7:7 – 8:12)
Lower left: How Noah went forth onto the land with his sons and their wives and all the animals which were in the ark. (Genesis 8:18–19)
Lower right: How Noah, having built an altar, offered sacrifice to God who blessed him and his sons with many promises and many threats. (Genesis 8:20 – 9:17)
Folio 2v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 42
Upper left: This is the scene of the prophet Noah whom God the Exalted commanded to build an ark for deliverance.
Upper right: This is Noah’s Ark and from every creature a male and a female were gathered to it for the sake of [preserving] the race.
Lower left: When the rain halted, His Excellence Noah disembarked from the Ark.
Lower right: This is the image of Noah who, after deliverance from the Flood, offered sacrifice to God the Exalted.
Folio 2v (Judeo-Persian)
Upper left margin: [It is] the scene when God commanded Noah: "Make yourself an ark."
Upper right margin: This is the scene when every living being was present in order to enter the ark.
Lower left margin: When the rain stopped, Noah came out of the ark.
Lower right margin: It is the scene of Noah’s offering a sacrifice after having been saved from the Flood.
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