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. 31v)
Once More among the Prophets
Infuriated by the behavior of his officers, Saul decides to pursue David himself. But the king fares no differently than his envoys. When he finally catches up to David and Samuel, Saul is overcome by the spirit of the Lord. He begins to prophesy and pulls his mantle over his head; for a full day and night, the king will lay down naked and prophesy with the rest. (1 Kings 19:21–24)
Jonathan Consoles David
David, armed with spear and sword, secretly meets with Jonathan. The friends swear loyalty to each other and agree on a plan that will insure David's safety. Jonathan will approach his father on David's behalf in order to determine the king's mind. If the king is still intent on harming David, Jonathan will send warning. (1 Kings 20:1–17)
It is the feast of the New Moon. Servants bustle about the high table with wine and platters of fish. As an evil spirit whispers in his ear, Saul becomes aware of David's absence. Jonathan apologizes on behalf of his friend, explaining that David has traveled to Bethlehem to sacrifice with his family. Suspecting treachery, Saul curses Jonathan and prepares to hurl an enormous javelin at him. Jonathan escapes harm and is now convinced of his father's evil intentions. (1 Kings 20:27–33)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper left: How, when Saul had sent various messengers to capture David, and all of them, having forgotten the task for which they had been sent, had begun prophesying, at length the king himself went, furious, to that place. Still, before he had come there, the spirit of God was upon him and he went on his way, prophesying, and came to the place where Samuel and David were and prophesied before them and stripped himself of his own clothes. (I Samuel 19: 21–24)
Upper right: How David, still on the run, talks to Jonathan, the king’s son, and complains about his father’s wrongdoings. Now, the latter orders him to hide in the field on the next day, the first day of the month, promising him to go to the king, intervene on his behalf, and, if he finds something, to faithfully, yet secretly, report it to him by shooting arrows. (I Samuel 20:11–23)
Lower half: How, when Saul, sitting at the table, had asked why David did not come to dine with him, and Jonathan pretended that he had gone to Bethlehem to sacrifice, the king, angered, reproached his son with harsh words, ordering him to bring David to him that he might be killed. When Jonathan asked: ’What has he done to earn his death?’, the king, greatly disturbed, wished to pierce him with his spear. (I Samuel 20: 24–34)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch