An Execution; Joshua's Final Commands; Joshua's Passing
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. 11v)
Scholars believe that the Picture Bible was commissioned by Louis IX of France, the Capetian monarch who built the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris to house the crown of thorns before leaving for the first of his two crusades in 1248. The Bible later passed to the cardinal of Cracow, who then offered it as a diplomatic gift to the great Persian Muslim shah 'Abbas in the early seventeenth century. The manuscript eventually fell into the hands of Jewish owners, probably during the eighteenth century. These various owners left Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions around the images. With these inscriptions, the keepers of the manuscript used their languages to assert their ownership of the book, appropriating its narrative contents and assimilating it into their own cultures.
The Latin captions are the earliest. They can be labeled as "early fourteenth-century," and were possibly made by a scribe trained in Bologna. The Persian captions come next. They were added in 1608 or shortly after, when the manuscript was presented to Shah Abbas in Isfahan. The Judeo-Persians are last, and according to the translator, they were probably made in 1722 or shortly after, as that year Isfahan was sacked by the Afghans. She supposes that at that time the book was looted by an Afghan soldier and was possibly exchanged with an Iranian Jew.
The Picture Bible is illustrated with saturated colors and exquisite detail. In order to make its lessons relevant to readers, the creators of this Bible set Old Testament stories in contemporaneous environments. For example, depictions of architecture evoke the castles and houses of thirteenth-century French towns and battle scenes are illustrated with thirteenth-century armor, weapons, and battle insignia.
After their humiliation, the five Amorite kings are hanged for a full day. Come evening, Joshua orders a soldier to take the bodies down. (Joshua 10:26–27)
Joshua's Final Commands
Years later, before his own death, an elderly Joshua exhorts the leaders of Israel to remember the many blessings of the Lord and to obey the law of Moses. (Joshua 23:1–14)
Beside Joshua's deathbed, the people grieve and mourn the passing of their great leader. (Joshua 24:29–31)
Folio 11v (Latin)
Upper half: How Joshua had the five kings who had been defeated in battle hanged on trees. (Joshua 10: 26)
Lower left: How Joshua, old, advanced in years and near death, gives many orders to the assembled children of Israel, encouraging them to be observant of the laws. (Joshua 23: 1–24 – 24)
Lower right: How, the affairs of the children of Israel now settled, Joshua dies. (Joshua 24: 29)
Folio 11v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 33
Upper left margin: And after that Joshua ordered those five kings to be hanged.
Lower left: When Joshua’s death neared, he summoned his people and gave his last testament.
Lower right: Here, Joshua breathed his last breath and died.
Folio 11v (Judeo-Persian)
Upper left margin, furthest left: The hanging of the five kings.
Lower left margin: At the time of Joshua’s death, he seeks out the Children of Israel and bequeaths his will.
Lower right, beneath Latin: Joshua’s departure from the world.
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