The Hours of Joanna I of Castile, Joanna the Mad (The London Rothschild Prayerbook)

The Hours of Joanna I of Castile, Joanna the Mad (The London Rothschild Prayerbook) f. 77r, Sarah and Tobias received by Anna


f. 77r, Sarah and Tobias received by Anna

The painting on this folio depicts Anna, Tobias’ mother, embracing Sarah, the wife of the protagonist of the book of the Bible, in the presence of a lady accompanying Anna, the archangel Raphael dressed in gold brocade, and Tobias carrying a bundle on his shoulder. Between them is the dog mentioned at the end of the narration. On the rocky prominence behind the characters are a man and a woman, possibly Tobit and Anna waiting for their son to return along the path he left by. Underneath them, in the background, are three figures – one pointing at an undefined point – a possible allusion to the three travellers on the way to Niniveh: Sarah, Tobias and St Raphael, with the saint suggesting to Tobias that they go ahead to prepare the house. However, since the archangel has no wings, it might be Raguel bidding his daughter, Sarah, and his son-in-law farewell. This extremely rare representation is one of the exceptions amongst the Old Testament prefigurations taken from the Speculum humanae salvationis, since it does not appear in any manuscript in this series. Furthermore, the painting does not follow the biblical tale: it is not Anna who receives Sarah but Tobit, as can be seen in the Hours of Louis of Orleans (St Petersburg, National Library of Russia, Lat. Q.v.I.126, f. 41v). However, the different ages of the two women and the greeting by the husband of Anna, who blesses Tobias’s wife, may be deemed to be a prefiguration of St Elizabeth’s greeting to the Virgin. In the Speculum humanae salvationis, Sarah, a prefiguration of the Mother of God, is depicted about to be married in what constitutes a parallel with the betrothal of Our Lady.

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