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. 41r)
A messenger returns with news of the shameful treatment that David's envoys have received at the court of the Ammonite king, Hanun. Hanun, confident that David will attempt to avenge the indignity, hires thousands of Syrian mercenaries to strengthen the Ammonite army. It is to no avail, however, as Joab shortly leads the Israelites into battle and defeats the enemy. In this scene, as the last of the Israelite army rides forth, Joab lands a crushing blow with a battle axe that fells an enemy rider and his horse. (2 Kings 10:6–14)
The Syrians Rally and Are Defeated
Ashamed of their loss to Israel, the Syrians assemble a great army; men have come from across the Euphrates to join Shobach, commander of the Syrian army. David orders the Israelite army across the Jordan and engages the enemy head on. In the heat of battle, David encounters Shobach and runs him through with a spear; in total, forty-thousand Syrian soldiers are slain. (2 Kings 10:15–18)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How David, disturbed by the injury done to his messengers and hearing that the children of Ammon had hired Syrian warriors, sent his army against them. A battle broke out and the principle enemy was defeated together with its mercenaries. (2 Samuel 10: 5–14)
Lower half: How the Syrians who were mercenaries in the former battle were vexed at their defeat. When they had gathered an army and were intending to take vengeance, David went to meet them, defeated the enemies, and struck and killed Sobach, the captain of their army. (2 Samuel 10: 15–18)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch