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. 25r)
The Lord's Remorse
Following Saul's disobedience, the Lord speaks to Samuel from the heavens, sharing His regret at having made Saul king. Samuel, kneeling beneath a tree and with his hands raised in grief, cries to the Lord throughout the night. (1 Kings 15:10–11)
The Kingdom Torn from Saul
Samuel has come to Saul with news of the Lord's displeasure. The prophet will hear none of the king's excuses and condemns Saul. As Samuel turns to leave, Saul takes hold of his mantle, tearing it. "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today," Samuel says as he points at the tear, "and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you." (1 Kings 15:24–28)
Samuel Enforces the Lord's Will
Samuel orders Saul to bring forth the prisoner Agag. The fearful Amalekite king, still wearing his crown, pleads for mercy. Samuel, intent only on the Lord's command, decapitates the king and severs his body at the waist. Raising a bloodied sword, the enraged priest prepares to strike yet another blow. (1 Kings 15:31–33)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How God, angry at Saul’s disobedience, speaks to Samuel, saying that he regretted making Saul a king, which grieved Samuel and he cried to the Lord all night. (I Samuel 15: 10, 11)
Upper right: How, when Samuel had come to the king, and having announced God’s order and threat, he wished to go, Saul caught the tip of his mantle and it was torn. Seeing this, Samuel says, prophesying, that God will thus tear his kingdom from him. (I Samuel 15: 13–28)
Lower half: How, when Samuel had stayed at Saul’s entreaties, he orders Agag, the king of Amalek whom Saul, had been ordered to kill but had taken captive, to come to him. When this was done, Samuel himself cuts him into pieces with his own hands. (I Samuel 15: 30–33)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch