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. 31r)
Michal Delays the Soldiers
Michal has warned David of her father's new plot to kill him. While David scrambles through a window, his wife delays the king's assassins. My husband is ill, she explains, and must stay in bed. She has arranged a dummy in the bed and covered its head with a hairy goat skin. The suspicious soldiers are about to discover Michal's ruse. (1 Kings 19:11–17)
A Trusted Friend
David flees to Ramah and takes refuge with Samuel and other prophets. The priest listens intently as David explains his plight. (1 Kings 19:18)
Saul Learns of David's Whereabouts
A field hand arrives at court and informs the king that David hides in Ramah with Samuel. Saul immediately dispatches officers to arrest David. (1 Kings 19:19–20)
Saul's Officers Struck by the Spirit of the Lord
Saul's officers arrive in Ramah. As they approach Samuel and David, the spirit of the Lord descends upon them in the form of a dove. David watches in amazement as his would-be captors begin to prophesy and wildly dance about. (1 Kings 19:20)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How, as they were coming to David’s house, the king’s guards discovered that Michal, his wife, had sent him out through the window and had laid an image in his bed and a goat skin with the hair at the head of the bed and she had covered it with clothes. (I Samuel 19: 11–13)
Upper right: How David ran away and came to Samuel. He told him all that the king had done to him and stayed with him. (I Samuel 19: 18)
Lower left: How, upon hearing where David was, Saul sends armed men to capture him. (I Samuel 19:19, 20)
Lower right: How when the king’s messengers had reached the place where Samuel was with a company of prophets, the spirit of God came upon them and they began prophesying. (I Samuel 19:20)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch