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. 1v)
The Fifth Day
On the fifth day, the Lord brings forth all of the creatures of the skies and seas. For the first time, birds take wing in the open firmament of the heavens, the waters teem with fish, and great whales roam the oceans. "Increase and multiply," the Lord commands, "fill the waters of the sea, and let the birds be multiplied upon the earth." (Genesis 1:20–23)
The Sixth Day
On the sixth day, the Lord forms man in his own image. As a sign of their special relationship, He grasps Adam's arm and, before the assembled creatures of the earth, charges him with dominion over the world and all of its inhabitants. (Genesis 1:24–31)
The Creation of Woman; The Tree of Knowledge
Soon after, the Lord puts Adam in Paradise and draws forth Eve from Adam's side. The pair are enjoined never to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. (Genesis 2:15–18, 21–23)
The Fall from Grace
A subtle, winged serpent with a woman's head convinces Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Adam accepts the forbidden fruit from his companion. (Genesis 3:1–6)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: On the fifth day God created reptiles and fish and all creatures that live in the water and winged fowl and birds over the earth. (Genesis 1: 20–23)
Upper right: On the sixth day God created the reptiles of the earth, cattle and beasts, and finally man, destined to have dominion over all the living beings of the sea, the heaven and the earth. These were the works of the six days. On the seventh God rested from all the work which he had created. (Genesis 1:24 – 2:3)
Lower left: Here is how God placed Adam, the first man, in the garden of Eden and, in order that he might not be alone, formed a woman for him from one of his ribs as he was sleeping, commanding him to eat freely of every tree in the garden of Eden excluding the tree of knowledge of good or bad, for on the day in which he ate thereof he would surely die. (Genesis 2:8–25)
Lower right: Here is how the woman, deceived by the serpent’s fraud, ate of the forbidden tree, against the Lord’s command, and gave also to her man. When he had similarly eaten the eyes of them both were opened. (Genesis 3: 1–7)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch