A Massing of Malcontents; Ahimelech Executed
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. 32v)
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.
A Massing of Malcontents
David escapes to the wilderness. At the cave of Adullam, his distressed brothers and other poor people of the kingdom gather to the young leader and proclaim him their prince. All told, David's ragtag company will number four-hundred men. (1 Kings 22:1–2)
Saul has discovered how Ahimelech and his priestly house provided David with aid. Ahimelech reminds Saul that David is a faithful servant, but the paranoid king will not listen to reason: the priest and his entire family are violently killed. (1 Kings 22:11–18)
Folio 32v (Latin)
Upper half: How Saul sends for Ahimelech and for his family members who were all priests. (I Samuel 22:11)
Lower half: How, when Ahimelech and the other priests, all eighty-five of them, had come to the king, he had them all killed and their city so utterly destroyed, that hardly one man escaped. (I Samuel 22: 6–19)
Folio 32v (Persian)
Persian foliation: 12
Upper left margin: The king sent [someone] and had the priest and his brethren brought forth.
Lower left: Then the king ordered the priest and his people slain.
Folio 32v (Judeo-Persian)
Lower right, above Latin: Doeg, having informed the king, the king ordered, "Go, bring Ahimelech and the rest of the priests." They brought them and they [the priests] were all killed. This also belongs to the tale [of?]
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