Week 4, Dec 13–Dec 18: Unicorn-Apes
Hebrew Bible: Conclusion of Deuteronomy with Lion (fol. 118v-119)
Illuminated by Joseph the Frenchman
Made in Spain
Tempera, gold, and ink on parchment
Overall: 11 7/16 x 8 7/8 x 3 15/16 in., 9.464lb. (29 x 22.5 x 10 cm, 4.293kg)
Manuscripts and Illuminations
Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Lisbon (BNP, IL.72)
Not on view
Most of the decoration in this bible appears in the tracts devoted to Hebrew vocalization and grammar that precede and follow the biblical text. One exception appears after the first five books of the bible that comprise the Torah. Here, the text on the right-hand page represents the final paragraph of Deuteronomy. A tower, in which sleeps a lion, provides a visual pause before proceeding to the rest of the text, which is read from right to left. Lions were a favored device in both Jewish and Christian art. In a Jewish context, they often served as a symbol of the Israelite tribe of Judah.
The tiny writing in the margins is part of the masorah, commentary that notes textual details such as the precise spelling of words. It was written by a specialist scribe, Joshua ibn Gaon, who embedded his name some twenty times within his text.