Michal's Dowry; A Bloody Struggle
Old Testament miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions
Purchased by J. P. Morgan, Jr., 1916
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.
Now a grown man, David is offered the hand of Michal, the king's daughter. Saul intends to use Michal's love as an opportunity to destroy David. Rather than demand a traditional bride price, the king requires David to bring him the foreskins of one hundred Philistines. The mature David is richly adorned; he carries gloves and wears a crimson coat over a gold tunic; his fiancée is likewise beautifully outfitted; she holds a lapdog and wears a golden chaplet, brooch, and girdle. Tied to her girdle is a delicately brocaded purse. (I Samuel 18:20–26)
A Bloody Struggle
Blood-stained swords flash angrily as David's company slaughters the Philistines. David, entering the fray from the left, hacks through an opponent's shoulder. All around, his warriors grapple and struggle with the enemy, landing vicious blows with swords and daggers. A remarkable black soldier stands out among the Philistines. (I Samuel 18:27)
Folio 29v (Latin)
Upper half: How the king, who was growing more and more attentive to David’s virtue and to the people’s love of him, was happy, knowing that his daughter loved him and hoped that if he gave his daughter to him to be his wife, he, full of spirit for having been made the king’s son-in-law, would go to battle and would be killed by the enemy, and thus it would not be necessary to lay hands on him. When he was offering his daughter to David who was saying that he was but a poor and weak man, Saul responded that as her dowry he was only asking one hundred Philistine foreskins, as they were his enemies. (I Samuel 18: 15–16, 20–25)
Lower half: How David, having accepted the king’s terms, sets out to the enemy’s land with his soldiers and kills two hundred men. (I Samuel 18: 27)
Folio 29v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 15
Upper left margin: The king gave his daughter in marriage to David on the condition that he slays in revenge a hundred men from the army of the enemy.
Lower left margin: Afterwards David came to the battlefield and slew a hundred persons.
Folio 29v (Judeo-Persian)
Upper left margin, furthest left: The king would give his daughter in marriage to David on the condition that he kill one hundred persons from among the enemy.
Lower left margin, furthest left: David kills one hundred persons of the enemy.
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