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. 19r)
A Happy Ending
Boaz has married Ruth, and she has given birth to a son. Here, Ruth sits up in bed and gestures to the doting Naomi, who holds her grandson to her cheek. At the right, women of Bethlehem praise the Lord for providing the family with a successor. Also, they give thanks for Ruth, who has loved Naomi better than seven sons. Obed, Ruth's son, will become the father of Jesse, who will become the father of David, slayer of Goliath. (Ruth 4:13–17)
Journey to Shiloh
The family of Elkanah has traveled to Shiloh to give thanks to the Lord. Elkanah kneels before the temple entrance with a lamb; the two sons of Eli, the high priest, accept the offering. Atop the draped altar is a golden reliquary chest, a Gothic painter's interpretation of the Ark of the Covenant. Elkanah is followed by his two wives: Peninnah, who has many children, and the sorrowful Hannah, who has none. (1 Kings 1:1–3)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How, after the person who had the option of having Ruth first had refused and Boaz had taken her to be his wife, he begat Obed of her who was the grandfather of king David, of whom Naomi, the mother-in-law, was taking care as his nurse. Moreover, her women neighbors were congratulating her as if he was her son. (Ruth 4: 13–17)
Lower half: From the first book of Kings [I Samuel]. How Elkanah had two wives, of whom the first, Hanna, was barren while the second, Peninnah, had many children, and on certain days he used to go with them to the temple, bearing an offering to God in the presence of the priests. (I Samuel 1:1–3)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch