Building Plans; David is Satisfied; Syria Subdued
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. 40r)
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.
Dissatisfied with the tabernacle he has built for the Ark of the Covenant, David consults with the prophet Nathan. The king points to the ornate roof of his home, questioning if it is right that the Ark should rest in a shelter poorer than his own house. The Lord speaks to David through Nathan, revealing that the building of the new Temple shall fall not to David but to his son, Solomon. (2 Kings 7:2–13)
David is Satisfied
David accepts this judgment and gives thanks in the tabernacle for the Lord's many blessings. (2 Kings 7:18–29)
The Israelite conquest continues; David destroys Hadadezer, king of Zobah, and subdues his Syrian allies. As David pursues Hadadezer, Israelite forces lay waste to Damascus. (2 Kings 8:3–6)
Folio 40r (Latin)
Upper left: How David talked to Nathan the prophet, saying that it was disgraceful that, while he dwelt in a house of cedar, the ark of God dwelt in an unworthy house. At first, Nathan told him to do what he had in his heart, for the Lord was with him. Then, a divine response having been obtained, he announced to him many and glorious promises of God, and among other things that a son would come out of his loins who would reign most happily after him and would build a house for God and a temple for his name. (2 Samuel 7: 1–17)
Upper right: How, having heard God’s promises from the prophetic mouth, David bends down before God with great obedience, giving thanks and praying. (2 Samuel 7: 18–29)
Lower half: How David subdues the Philistines and the Moabites, having killed many, having captured many, and having taken much booty, and makes them pay taxes to him. (2 Samuel 8: 1–8)
Folio 40r (Persian)
Upper left margin: His Excellence David met with Natan [Nathan] the prophet and said, "Is it not strange that I own fair houses and the Ark of God remains without a house? Pray, and whatever God inspires you, tell me to do accordingly." The prophet prayed and said, "Whatever is necessary [for] the house of God, prepare for it, and your son, Solomon, shall build it."
Upper right margin: Thus the prophet prostrated before the Ark and raised his hands in prayer.
Lower half: And His Excellence David fought every king in his environs and captured their people.
Folio 40r (Judeo-Persian)
Lower left margin: David said to Nathan the prophet, "It is a strange thing that I dwell in good houses while God’s Ark is homeless; pray you to God, whatever He commands thus shall I do."
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