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. 25v)
Although angry with Saul for his disobedient behavior, Samuel mourns for the king. As the priest grieves, the Lord reproaches him for doubting His judgment. Following the Lord's order, Samuel arises, collects a lamb, and departs for Bethlehem. There, the Lord has chosen a new king from among the sons of Jesse. (1 Kings 15:35–16:2)
Samuel Arrives in Bethlehem
Elders of Bethlehem greet Samuel at the city gate. The priest assures them that his intentions are peaceful. (1 Kings 16:3–5)
David, a New Hope
After offering a sacrifice to the Lord, Samuel sanctifies Jesse and his sons. The priest asks the Lord to identify the chosen one, but he is not among the sons. "Are all the young men here?" Samuel asks. "There remains yet the youngest," replies Jesse, "and there he is, keeping the sheep." On a nearby hillock, David sits playing his pipe and ringing a bell. A dog, seven sheep, and three goats surround him. His favorite instrument, the harp, leans against a tree. (1 Kings 16:5–11)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How God himself reproved Samuel, when he mourned for Saul, whom he loved, because the latter had fallen in with God’s anger, ordering him to go to Bethlehem to anoint another king for him, and in order that he might not be in danger if Saul sensed that, he told him to go as if for sacrificial purposes. (I Samuel 15:35 – 16:2)
Upper right: How, when Samuel had reached Bethlehem, the elders of the city rushed to meet him asking if he comes in peace, to whom he responds that he does, and that he comes to offer a sacrifice. (I Samuel 16: 4–5)
Lower half: How Samuel talks to Jesse the Bethlehemite, as God had ordered, telling him to bring his sons to him. When he had fetched all those who were in the city and none of them was the one he wanted, Jesse said that he had no more sons except a young one who was tending the sheep. This indeed was David. Therefore Samuel ordered that he be brought to him, saying that he will not eat before David’s arrival. (I Samuel 16: 6, 11)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch