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. 19v)
After the offering is made, Elkanah distributes portions to his family. To Peninnah and her children goes the greatest portion. But to Hannah he can only give a small amount, although he loves and pities her much. Peninnah is depicted here a second time, standing behind the unfortunate Hannah and mocking her. (1 Kings 1:4–7)
Hannah returns to the temple alone and prays for a son, vowing that she will devote him to the Lord's priesthood. Eli, the chief priest, discovers her weeping and silently pleading before the Ark of the Covenant. Eli takes pity on her and asks the God of Israel to hear her petition. (1 Kings 1:9–17)
The Road Home
This miniature probably depicts the return of Elkanah's family to their home in Ramah. Elkanah appears to be reproving Peninnah, whose children nibble on bread. It is also possible that Elkanah is urging Hannah not to grieve, an event that, in the Bible, takes place before her prayers in the temple. (1 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 1:19)
A miracle occurs. The Lord has heard Hannah's plea and granted her a son. She names him Samuel, meaning "I have asked for him from the Lord." As Hannah adores the swaddled infant, Peninnah leans against the bed, supporting her chin on her hand and wearing an expression of quiet amazement. (1 Kings 1:20)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How Elkanah, the sacrifice now completed, gave many portions to his wife Peninnah, who had many children, but only one portion to Hanna who was alone with no children. (I Samuel 1:4–6)
Upper right: How Hanna goes in her sorrow to the temple and silently prays there, weeping sorely, while not moving her lips, with the result that, at first, the priest of the temple censures her, suspecting her to be drunk. Then, hearing that she speaks affected not by wine but by the sorrow of her heart, he pities her and entreats God to listen to her prayers. (I Samuel 1: 9–18)
Lower left: How Elkanah returns home with his wives and children. (I Samuel 1: 19)
Lower right: How after Hanna had asked a son from God with many tears, her wish was granted and she conceived and gave birth to Samuel, the great prophet. (I Samuel 1:20)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch