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. 40v)
David's Command to Ziba
David learns from Ziba, a former servant of Saul, that a member of Saul's house still lives. He is the crippled Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son. David orders Ziba to fetch him. (2 Kings 9:2–5)
David's Great Charity
Ziba presents Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son, to the king. David takes his hand and swears to Mephibosheth that he will always eat at the king's table. Moreover, the king once more sets Ziba and his house under Mephibosheth, to insure that Jonathan's progeny will thrive. (2 Kings 9:6–7)
The king of Ammon has died, and his son has succeeded him. David, who was once allied with the king, sends messengers to show his good will toward the new ruler. (2 Kings 10:1–2)
David's envoys arrive in Ammon to offer his friendship to Hanun, the new king. Hanun's servants, suspicious of David's intentions, persuade the king that David has sent his men to spy. Hanun thus shamefully orders that half of each man's beard be cut off and their clothes cut to reveal their nakedness. (2 Kings 10:3–4)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How, sent to David, Joram, the son of Toi, the king of Hamath salutes him and congratulates him on his great victories. (2 Samuel 8: 9–10)
Upper right: How David devised that it be diligently inquired if anyone of the house of Saul had survived. Once it was found that one of the sons of Jonathan, Saul’s son, Mephibosheth by name was still alive, and that both his feet were lame, David has him brought to him, talks to him mercifully and kindly and reinstates him over all of his grandfather’s properties. He also orders him to eat at his table perpetually. (2 Samuel 9)
Lower left: How, upon hearing about the death of Nahash, the king of the children of Ammon, David sends messengers to his son, Hanun by name, who had succeeded him, consoling him for his father’s death. (2 Samuel 10:1–2)
Lower right: How Hanun, who, following his men’s suggestion, suspected that David’s messengers were sent not to console him but to spy, shaved off one half of their beards and cut away their clothes up to their buttocks and thus sent them back disgracefully. (2 Samuel 10: 3–4)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch