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. 39v)
David's Greatest Triumph
David retrieves the Ark of the Covenant from Obed-Edom's house, and a jubilant celebration ensues as the triumphant king, playing upon his harp, leads it into Jerusalem. Once the Ark has come six paces into the city, a sacrifice is made of an ox and a ram. No one is more overjoyed than the king himself, who dances and leaps before the procession. David's wild behavior embarrasses Michal, who points accusingly at him from her window. But the king is unconcerned, wishing only to give thanks and humble himself before God. (2 Kings 6:12–16)
The Ark Enshrined in Jerusalem
The Ark of the Covenant is placed in the new tabernacle David has built for it. Sacrifices and peace offerings are made to the Lord. (2 Kings 6:17)
David Blesses Israel
Having given thanks, the king blesses the people and distributes food to all. (2 Kings 6:18–19)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How, upon hearing that the Lord had blessed Obed-edom and all that he had because of the ark which had stayed with him for three months, David carried it to his city with great joy, playing the harp and cheering with all the people so much so that they sacrificed an ox and a bull every six paces. And as the people were rejoicing, the trumpets were sounding, and the king was dancing, Michal, the king’s wife looked out through the window and despised him in her heart. (2 Samuel 6: 12–16)
Lower left: How, the ark having been set in the midst of the tabernacle, David offers many sacrifices in that place. (2 Samuel 6: 17)
Lower right: How, having completed the sacrifices, David blesses the people, distributing bread and other foods among them. (2 Samuel 16: 18–19)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch