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. 30v)
Jonathan Brokers Peace
Jonathan, having warned David, protests his friend's innocence to the king. As proof of David's loyalty, the prince recounts the many feats of arms his friend has undertaken in Saul's name. Saul is dissuaded from killing David and once again receives him at court. (1 Kings 19:3–7)
The War Resumes
Again, the Israelites engage the Philistines. David and his company slaughter a great number of the enemy and chase them from the battlefield. (1 Kings 19:8)
Saul is again afflicted by an evil spirit sent by the Lord. The jealous king takes aim at his son-in-law with a spear, but David neatly steps aside and out of harm's way. (1 Kings 19: 9–10)
A Second Assassination Attempt
Saul directs his soldiers to surround David's home and to kill him in the morning. (1 Kings 19:11)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How Jonathan, having spoke good of David to his father, the king, soothed his mind and makes David agreeable to him. (I Samuel 19: 4–7)
Upper right: How, when the war with the Philistines had begun again, David went out and fought against them and defeated them with a great slaughter and they fled. (I Samuel 19: 8)
Lower left: How, when the evil spirit has come again upon the king, as David was playing before him, as he was accustomed, the king, holding his spear, wished to pierce him but David went out again. (I Samuel. 19:9, 10)
Lower right: How Saul sends his guards to kill David in his house. (I Samuel 19:11)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch