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The Crusader Bible, Illuminated by Seven Different Artists

Circa 1250
158530v 0004

f. 2v from The Crusader Bible or the Morgan Bible (Morgan Library & Museum MS M.638). Noah Builds an Ark, Searching for Dry Land, A Joyous Landing, A New Beginning. Old Testament Miniatures with Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions

The Crusader Bible, also known as the Morgan Picture Bible, the Maciejowski Bible, and the Shah ‘Abbas Bible, contains 46 illuminated folios of which 43 are preserved in The Morgan Library & Museum (MS M.638), 2 in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF, Ms n.a.l. 2294 fols 2, 3), and a single folio in the J. Paul Getty Museum, (Ludwig I 6 - 83.MA.55). This picture book, which was probably produced in Paris about 1250, has long been associated with the court of Louis IX, the pious crusader king of France and builder of the Sainte-Chapelle chapel on the Île de la Cité in Paris. Its illuminations, by seven different artists, are renowned for their bold coloring and draftsmanship, which bring Old Testament stories to life in bright images replete with medieval castles, towns, and battling knights in armor, all set in thirteenth-century France. In 346 images on 46 folios the manuscript illustratates portions of Genesis, Exodus Joshua, Judges, Ruth and Samuel. Forty percent of the images are devoted to the life of David.

It is believed that the manuscript originally probably contained only paintings. Around the year 1300 marginal inscriptions in Latin describing the scenes illustrated were added. The manuscript was owned by Cardinal Bernard Maciejowski, Bishop of Cracow, in the early 17th century. On January 3, 1608 Cardinal Maciejowksi had the book given as a gift to Abbas I (Shah of Persia). Abbas ordered the addition of Persian inscriptions, mostly translating the Latin inscriptions previously added. Following the sack of Isfahan by Afghans in 1722, the book was acquired by a Persian-speaking Jew who added inscriptions in Judeo-Persian. The book thus consists of paintings of events from Hebrew scripture, set in the scenery and customs of thirteenth-century France, depicted from a Christian perspective, and surrounded by text in three scripts and five languages: Latin, Persian, Arabic, Judeo-Persian, and Hebrew. It was purchased in Egypt by Giovanni d’Athanasi; his sale (London, Sotheby’s, March 16, 1833, lot 201) to Payne and Foss; Sir Thomas Phillipps (Phillipps Collection, no. 8025); purchased by J.P. Morgan (1867-1943) in 1916.

In November 2014 digital facsimiles of the all of the leaves of the Crusader Bible held by the Morgan Library & Museum were available at this link.

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