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. 41v)
The stage is set for David's greatest sin. One evening, from the roof of his palace, the king spies a lovely woman at her bath. Overcome with lust, he sends a messenger to discover her identity and learns that she is Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite. (2 Kings 11:2–4)
David takes Bathsheba to bed, and she conceives a son by him. (2 Kings 11:4–5)
Joab is summoned and ordered to fetch Uriah from the Israelite camp. David orders the soldier to return home to his wife, reasoning that if Uriah presently lays with Bathsheba, no one can accuse her of infidelity when her child is born. (2 Kings 11:6)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How, when after this victory many enemy kings had no hope left in arms, made peace with the children of Israel, and were serving them, and when David had sent the army and Joab, its captain against the children of Ammon, by now deprived of their Syrian auxiliary forces, it happened one day that David was walking, after his midday sleep in a balcony in the palace, when he saw Bathsheba, a beautiful woman indeed, washing herself in a balcony over against him. Thereupon he fell in love with her and sent messengers to bring him. (2 Samuel 11:1–4)
Lower left: How when Bathsheba had come to him, David slept with her and immediately she was impregnated and sent back to her own house. (2 Samuel 11:4–5)
Lower right: How upon hearing that Bathsheba had conceived, David, intending to conceal his deed, ordered the captain of the army to send to him Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. When Uriah had come to him, he first asked him about the state of the army, and then ordered him to go home and lie down. (2 Samuel 11: 5–8)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch