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. 33v)
Abigail Cools David's Wrath
David has requested provisions from Nabal, a wealthy sheepherder, and promised in return to continue his protection of Nabal's flocks. But Nabal dismisses David's envoys with disparaging remarks. Abigail, Nabal's wife, regrets her husband's action. She meets David on the road with pack animals loaded with supplies for the army and thus allays David's wrath. (1 Kings 25:18–35)
Nabal sits slumped in his chair after a night of heavy drinking, listening to Abigail reveal how narrowly he escaped the wrath of David. Nabal is struck with such fear that his heart dies within him, and he becomes like a stone. (1 Kings 25:36–37)
After ten days, Nabal dies. Abigail and her maidservants grieve at his bedside. When the news reaches David, he praises the Lord for returning Nabal's wickedness upon his own head. Abigail will shortly accept David's marriage proposal and join him in the wilderness. (1 Kings 25:38)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How, when David was living in the desert, he sent messengers to some very rich man, Nabal by name, asking him, with very gentle words, to help him in his plight and send him something. Now, this person replied very harshly which angered David and, as he was going with armed men to kill him, Nabal’s wife, whose name was Abigail, a very beautiful and wise woman, rushed to him with wine and bread and cooked rams and many other things, and moreover, calmed his anger with incredible humanity and gentle words. (I Samuel 25: 2–35)
Lower left: How, when on the next day Abigail had told Nabal what had happened, he perceiving the danger, was astounded and almost turned into stone. (I Samuel 25: 36–37)
Lower right: How Nabal, Abigail’s husband, died after ten days. (I Samuel 25: 38)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch