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. 27v)
The War Effort
Young David arrives at the battle with provisions for his brethren and passes supplies to the baggage officers. The cart is filled with armor to be used in the battle against the Philistines. (1 Kings 17:20–22)
The precocious David makes his way to the battlefield, where Saul confers with his men. While among the soldiers, David hears the taunts of Goliath and resolves to do battle with him, despite the chiding of his older brother. Meanwhile, the haughty Philistine giant continues to yell challenges and insults from across the battlefield. (1 Kings 17:23–30)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How, as David came to the camp, he wished to offer what he had brought, but upon hearing the shout of the armies which were ready for battle, he leaves everything by the camp’s baggage under the care of the keeper, and rushes to the site of the battle. (I Samuel 17: 20–22)
Lower half: How, when David had come to the site of the battle and that giant was defying Israel, as was his habit, while they were fearing exceedingly, one man said that the king would give his daughter and many riches to anyone who could kill the giant, and would make him and all of his father’s house exempt from taxes. Upon hearing this, David asked diligently about the conditions. When he had learned all, he was scornful of that giant and made it clear that he had the highest hopes of victory, although his brothers were rebuking him severely. (I Samuel 17: 23–29)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch