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. 20r)
Hannah Honors her Vow
Gratefully, Hannah has returned to the temple in Shiloh and to Eli, the high priest. As thanks to the Lord, she has her servants bring three calves, three bushels of flour, and a bottle of wine. But her most important gift is her son, Samuel, whom she vowed she would consecrate to the Lord. Eli, seated behind the altar and the Ark of the Covenant, accepts these gifts on behalf of the Lord and receives Samuel into the ranks of the priesthood. (1 Kings 1:21–28)
At Shiloh, whenever a pilgrim makes a sacrifice, Eli's corrupt sons send a servant to fetch a portion. The servant's three-pronged fork guarantees that the priests will always take a large part of the sacrifice; at left, the frustrated man who made the offering raises his hands in disgust. The enormous cauldron seen here is suspended from a device that functions like a chimney-crook; its metal teeth enable it to be raised or lowered. (1 Kings 2:12–14)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How Hannah leads her weaned son to the temple together with three calves, three measures of flour, and a bottle of wine, saying to the priest that ’Here is the boy whom I have formerly asked from the Lord.’ (I Samuel I: 24–28)
Lower half: How there was a shameful habit that when someone had offered a sacrifice, the servant of the priest was thrusting a fish hook of three teeth into the caldron where the flesh was boiling and whatever he drew up belonged to the priest. (I Samuel 2: 12–17)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch