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. 42r)
Uriah Refuses to Return Home
Uriah will not obey David's orders to return home, for to do so in a time of war would bring shame upon him. He sets up his eagle-topped pavilion before the king's house and enjoys a rich feast provided by the king. David's grand doorway is crowned by a finial topped by a royal fleur-de-lis. (2 Kings 11:7–9)
Uriah is Slain
David, unable to convince Uriah to return home, sends him back to the Israelite camp with a sealed letter for Joab. Joab is instructed to reassign Uriah to the fiercest part of the battle. Uriah is posted to the front lines of the Israelite siege at Rabbah, where valiant men defend the citadel. There he is struck by a bolt fired from an enemy crossbow and killed. (2 Kings 11:14–17)
Image courtesy of Faksimile Verlag Luzern, www.faksimile.ch.
Content consultant: Richard Leson
Upper half: How, after he had departed from the king, Uriah did not go home, saying that it was disgraceful that while the ark of God and all the people were dwelling in tents he was eating and drinking at home and lying down with his wife. Therefore he stayed in front of the palace’s gate and food was sent to him from the king. (2 Samuel 11: 8–9)
Lower half: How, when David had twice attempted in vain to have Uriah go to his house and wife, he then sent him back to the army with a letter to Joab, the army’s captain, ordering to assign him to the place the battle was most fierce, that he might die. When Joab, in obedience to the king’s command, had indeed assigned him to the siege of Rabbath where the battle was most fierce and the enemy most strong, Uriah and others died fighting. (2 Samuel 11: 10–17)
Translation by Eran Lupu
After the commentary volume accompanying the Fine Art Facsimile edition
by Faksimile Verlag Luzern / www.faksimile.ch