Old Testament Miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions
France, Paris, 1240s
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.
MS M.638 (fol. 18v)
Boaz Must Send Ruth Away
Boaz cannot marry Ruth in good faith while another kinsman, a closer relation of her mother-in-law's, has legal rights to Naomi's property. In the meantime, Boaz gives Ruth six measures of barley, which she brings home to her mother-in-law. Naomi advises Ruth to be patient and await the outcome. (Ruth 3:14–18)
Boaz speaks with his kinsman and six elders concerning the matter of Naomi's property and Ruth. If the kinsman purchases the property, he must take Ruth to wife. Realizing that such a union would disinherit the rest of his family, the kinsman yields his privilege to Boaz. Following tradition, the kinsman removes his shoe before the assembly, a signal that he has officially relinquished his right. Boaz and the elders, all richly appareled, wear conical Jewish caps. (Ruth 4:3–8)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How, when Boaz, upon finding Ruth during the night, was greatly stupefied and had told her that there was another relative, closer than him, who could, according to the law of priority, vindicate her, and that that person should first be asked if he wanted her, he sent her back in the morning laden with barley. She then related in order the whole affair to her mother-in-law. (Ruth 3: 8–18)
Lower half: How Boaz summoned the relative whom he had mentioned, and, having called on the elders of the people, asked him if he wished to have Ruth for himself, as she had been the wife of his relative. Now, he replied that he did not and that he would yield his right to Boaz. As a token of this, he took his shoes off his feet, for such was the testimony of cession among the people of Israel. (Ruth 4: 1–8)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch