Bible moralisée of Naples

Bible moralisée of Naples f. 21v (Gen. 29: 17 and 35: 22-23)


f. 21v (Gen. 29: 17 and 35: 22-23)

"Here Jacob [added] has four wives, two old ones and two young and he keeps the young ones and disdains the old rheumy-eyed women. Here Jacob’s twelve patriarchs are born.”

An unusual summary of Jacob’s fertile polygamy with four wives: two old and two young women who are, of course, Leah and Rachel and their servants Bilhah and Zilpah. He retains the young women and rejects the old women described as rheumy-eyed, a reference to the blot in one of Leah’s eyes. Jacob, however, embraces just one woman, leaving the two old women (who nonetheless look young) behind him. Twelve patriarchs, i.e. twelve sons, are born of his four wives. Jacob sitting on the right then speaks to his twelve sons standing in two lines in front of him. Rachel, the beautiful, young woman with a candid gaze is obviously Ecclesia, and Leah, the old, blind and muddled Law. Jacob’s twelve sons are the twelve apostles born of the word of God. Their twelve heads are arranged like a fan before Christ’s face beaming with light, beams created by merely scratching the image and its gold ground.

Yves Christe
University of Geneva
Marianne Besseyre
Illuminated Manuscripts Research Center, Bibliothèque nationale de France
Fragment of the Bible moralisée of Naples commentary volume

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