With Four Well-Painted Figures Inhabiting Initials, one of them a Cone-Hatted Jew


(France, mid-13th century). 152 x 102 mm. (6 x 4"). Double column, 51 lines in a very fine gothic pearl script.

Rubrics in red, capitals struck with red, headlines and chapter numbers in red and blue, three two-line initials in red or blue with trailing penwork in both colors, recto WITH TWO FOUR-LINE HISTORIATED INITIALS ("P" and "M") IN COLORS HIGHLIGHTED IN BURNISHED GOLD, one showing Paul (with his signature sword) speaking to Philemon, the other showing the Apostle addressing a man wearing the cone-shaped hat Medieval Jewish men were required to wear, the "P" with a 30-line descender inhabited by a small orange dragon, a bar border below that descender extending the remaining 12 lines of text to the very edge of the page. A FINE LEAF, very clean and smooth, with comfortable margins, intact paint, rich colors, and bright gold.

In decorative terms, this leaf, with its two historiated capitals--each enclosing two well-realized figures--is particularly pleasing. The second initial is of special interest as a reflection of cultural history. Jews in 13th century France were widely subjected to various kinds of persecution, oppression, harassment, aggravation, and maltreatment. As a part of this, the identity of Jews had to be persistently and publicly disclosed, so they were required at this time to wear certain attire to reveal who they were. As we see here in the historiated "M," one piece of clothing was the "pilleus cornutus" (or "horned skullcap"), the pointed hat Jewish men were forced to wear when in the company of Gentiles. In 1268, the French king also required all Jews to wear a piece of cloth cut in the form of a wheel attached to the front and back of an outer garment.

Keywords: Bibles