Michal's Dowry; A Bloody Struggle
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. 29v)
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.
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. (1 Kings 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. (1 Kings 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