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. 11r)
The Longest Day
Joshua and his army depart to defend the city of Gibeon, now under siege by the Amorite kings. Joshua is twice shown in this illustration; in the center, he rides through a city gate and spears an enemy king. Behind this group he appears again, imperiously commanding the sun and moon to remain motionless in the sky. As daylight is prolonged, the Israelites have ample time to revenge themselves upon their enemies. To the right, the other Amorite kings flee their attackers. (Joshua 10:6–13)
Israel's Enemies Humiliated
Joshua soon learns that his enemies are hiding in a cave at Makkedah. Israelite men drag the five kings from their hiding place, and, in obedience to Joshua, they trample on the kings' necks. Joshua, still holding his spear, encourages the men, reminding them that a similar fate awaits all those who oppose the Lord. (Joshua 10:15–25)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How when Joshua’s fame had reached the king of Jerusalem, he, fearing greatly for himself and his kingdom, conspired with four other kings, and first of all attacks the city of Gibeon, since it had made a treaty with Joshua. But the people of Gibeon begged Joshua for help against these five kings and he, coming with a great army, defeated them in battle. Yet, fearing that night would come and prevent the victory, he ordered with great assurance the sun and the moon to stand still. Indeed, there has never been a day as long as that one, as God was obeying a human voice. (Joshua 10: 1–14)
Lower half: How when almost all the men of the king’s army had been killed and it had been told to Joshua that the five kings themselves were hiding in a cave, he had them dragged out and ordered the captains of Israel to trample on their necks with their feet. (Joshua 10: 17–24)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch