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. 39r)
The Philistines have learned that David is now king of all Israel and decide to take action against this new threat. David, sanctioned by the heavenly gaze of the Lord, rides forth with his army to deal with the enemy. At Baal Perazim (which literally means Baal is broken), the battle begins and the Philistines are utterly defeated. David, bearing a blue shield with a golden lion rampart, runs a Philistine horseman through with his javelin. The contrast between the well-organized ranks of Israelite cavalry at the left and the chaotic mass of fleeing Philistines at the right testifies to the military superiority of David's forces. (2 Kings 5:17–20)
The Chariot of Abinadab
The king seeks to bring the Ark of the Covenant out of the house of Abinadab and into Jerusalem. But as David plays his harp at the head of a joyous procession of musicians, he is stopped suddenly by an awful sight. Uzzah, the son of Abinadab, reaches out to steady the Ark on the bumpy road. For this rashness, the Lord strikes him down where he stands. As the tragedy is pointed out to Uzzah's brother, Ahio, the king casts a concerned glance at the Ark. He decides to enshrine it temporarily in the house of Obed-Edom, who greets David from his doorway at the right. From the heavens, the hand of the Lord blesses Obed-Edom's house. (2 Kings 6:2–11)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How, when it was widely known that David was ruling over all of Israel, the Philistines gathered together and went out to seek him. But, the Lord having been consulted, David went ahead to meet them and prostrated them in a great massacre. (2 Samuel 5: 17–20)
Lower half: How David, together with all the people, led the ark of the Lord, laden on a new cart, from the house of Abinadab, whose two sons were leading the cart. David and the people were then playing before it. Yet, when the oxen had kicked and the ark had started to lean aside, Abinadab’s older son put forth his hand and lay hold of the ark. On account of this harshness he fell down there, before the ark, struck by divine indignation. Seeing this, David was saddened and terrified. Fearing to lead the ark to his own house, he carried it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. (2 Samuel 6: 1–11)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch