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. 6v)
Joseph can no longer maintain the charade and confesses his identity. The brothers, struck with amazement and fear, are unable to speak. But Joseph is overcome with emotion; he weeps and embraces Benjamin. After many years, the brothers are reconciled. (Genesis 45:1–15)
A Family Feast
Joseph welcomes his brothers into his house and holds a feast for them at a rich table. (Genesis 43:31–34)
The brothers return to Jacob with amazing news. Joseph is alive and ruler of Egypt. This seems impossible! The brothers present their proof: wagon loads of presents Joseph has sent to his father. But the elderly Jacob is unconcerned with riches; all that matters is that Joseph still lives. (Genesis 45:21–28)
A Blessing for Pharaoh
Jacob and his sons arrive in Egypt with all that they possess, and Joseph happily presents his family to Pharaoh. Jacob kneels before the king and blesses him. "How old are you?" Pharaoh asks. "The days of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty years, few, and evil," Jacob humbly replies, "and they are not come up to the days of the pilgrimage of my fathers." (Genesis 47:1–10)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How, as these returning in great fear, Joseph, unable to contain himself any longer, embraces Benjamin his brother with many a tear (Genesis 44: 13 – 45:14)
Upper right: How Joseph feasts with his brothers (Genesis 43: 32–34)
Lower left: How, after they have received many presents as well as a chariot to bring their father with all his household to Egypt, the sons return to Jacob telling him all that they have seen, as he is stupefied and hardly willing to believe. (Genesis 45: 19–28)
Lower right: How Joseph introduces his father and brothers before Pharaoh the king. (Genesis 48: 1–10)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch