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. 28v)
David Slays Goliath
Before Goliath can draw his sword, David strikes him in the forehead with a stone from his sling. As the dismayed Philistines look on, the victorious youth cuts off Goliath's head using the giant's own mighty sword. (1 Kings 17:45–51)
David's Vow to Saul Fulfilled
After David's victory over Goliath, Abner, commander of the army, presents the young hero to a grateful Saul. The king accepts the head of Goliath as proof of David's conquest and, as a token of friendship, David accepts the costly garments of the king's son, Jonathan. (1 Kings 17:57–1 Kings 18:4)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How Goliath, upon seeing David coming with stones, reproached him for his age and appearance and because he had come to him as one would come to a dog, with stones instead of with a sword. Yet, David answers him saying: ’ you come to me trusting your arms, but I come to you trusting my God.’ As he was saying this, he hastily took a stone, placed it in his sling and smote Goliath, who was drawing near to meet him, in his forehead with so much force, that the stone was affixed to Goliath’s forehead and he sank to the ground. Seeing this, the terrified Philistines turned their backs and fled. David, on the other hand, approached Goliath and, as he did not have a sword of his own, killed him with his sword and cut off his head. (I Samuel 17: 41–51)
Lower half: How, when David had been brought before the king, with the head of Goliath in his hand, and the king asked him about his family and he answered, it came to pass that once he had heard David, Jonathan, the king’s son, at once fell in love with him, and loved him so deeply that he took off his clothes and gave them to him as a present together with his bow and his sword and his girdle. (I Samuel 18: 1–4)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch