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. 37r)
Conflict has arisen between Abner and Ishbosheth. Abner, angry with the Israelite king, sends messengers to Judah in the hope that he might form an alliance with David. (2 Kings 3:12)
Abner's messengers arrive in Judah with their master's proposal. David agrees to reconcile with Abner on one condition: he must return Michal, David's wife, whom Saul had given to another. (2 Kings 3:13)
Abner Takes Michal from Her Husband
Ishbosheth has agreed to return Michal to David. Michal's husband weeps piteously as Abner and his soldiers lead her away. (2 Kings 3:14–16)
Michal Returned to David
Abner has fulfilled his end of the bargain. The commander kneels before David and presents the king his lost wife. Michal appears to greet her former husband with some trepidation.
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How, alienated by his master, Abner, the captain of the army of Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, sends messengers to David, asking for his friendship and promising to bring all of Israel back to him. (2 Samuel 3:12)
Upper right: How David listens willingly to Abner’s messengers and embraces his friendship proposal on the condition that he bring back his wife, Michal, whom Saul, her father, had taken away and had given to another. (2 Samuel 3: 13)
Lower left: How Abner, bringing Michal back to David, told her husband, who was following her, weeping, to go back, and he went back. (2 Samuel 3:16)
Lower right: How Abner, having talked to the elders of Israel and to the people in order that he might again make them all obliged and obedient to David, came to him at last in Hebron, bringing Michal back. (2 Samuel 3: 17–19)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch