(4) The Story in the Pictures (pages 5 through 18)

I compared the drawings from the Codex against similar images from illuminated books, painting, frescoes, etchings or prints, looking for the same main characters, in similar postures, with alike implements amid resembling architecture. I did not identify all the drawings. Help from anybody who recognizes them or has a different opinion from mine is welcomed. Truth is, there is a lot of ambiguity and mix-up in them. Erwin Panofsky writes in “Studies in Iconology” (page 7):

If the knife that enables us to identify a St. Bartholomew is not a knife but a cork-screw, the figure is not a St. Bartholomew.

What if this pattern of “near hits” runs through the entire manuscript: the two tables of the law that let us identify Moses are three, the supreme judge in the Last Judgment has two options: to send you to hell or to…hell, the Holy Trinity consists of only two personas? Are these still Moses, the Last Judgment and the Trinity? What is that something else, to quote Panofsky again, that made the author of the Codex change details of the well known Christian themes?

But, for now, let’s stay with the identification. Since there are 93 drawings, I had to separate them into manageable stacks. Because the manuscript is apparently divided by snakes and embellished lines into chunks (I hesitate to call them chapters) I use them as such. Therefore, each post ends with a snake or a line  even if  I am not completely convinced in their role as dividers.

This is a very small manuscript and many of the drawings are the size of a stamp. Trimming down the number of characters in a scene looks as a natural option for the CR author: he had a very limited amount of space, not to mention his limited drawing skills. How he selected among the characters – who stays, who’s cut out – is, on the other hand, intriguing.

Here are some conventions the CR author is using throughout the manuscript:
shining and light are suggested with dots. The technique  was used mainly in the Irish and English manuscripts but here is this Greek manuscript where St. Paul and his letter to Corinthians (1)  are surrounded by dots.

38b91-dotsSt. Paul in Byzantine Praxapostolos – about 950 AD
– the letter in his hand is in Old Church Slavonic
– from Biblical Data

And the CR:

page 57 Right

page 57 Right

head gear – many characters wear something that looks like a striped turban. In fact is a crossed or cruciform halo. This is quite obvious in the drawing above but not as clear in others:

page 89 Right

page 89 Right

Whereas the plain halo indicates saints and other sacred figures, when crossed, it usually indicates one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, namely God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit, a rule not clear if consistently followed by the CR author.

Jesus Christ Pantocrator- mosaic from Hagia Sophia - from Wikipedia

Jesus Christ Pantocrator- mosaic from Hagia Sophia – from Wikipedia

the mountain

page 14 Right

page 14 Right

I wondered for quite a long time if this is a road or a mountain. It is definitely (maybe) a mountain.

the beard – all men have pointy beards (not the children or teenagers)

page 41Right

page 41Right

dim light – the things or bodies that shine less are ususally darkened

page 38 Right

page 38 Right

various implements held by the characters:

Some I identified:
Globus cruciger

page 95 Left

page 95 Left

Some not:
Rattlers

page 16 Left

page 16 Left

page 170 Left

page 170 Left

or magic wands (probably a candle)

page 108 Right

page 108 Right

And now, the first batch.

1. page 5 Left – Binding of Isaac – Old Abraham prepares to sacrifice his only son Isaac at the request of God, on Mount Moriah. At the last moment, the angel Gabriel stops him from cutting his son’s throat, and offers a ram instead. This nightmarish story has some very dramatic renditions. The CR has Abraham, Isaac, the angel, the altar and the dove as image of the Holy Spirit. The ram is missing. I needed three different images to recreate a match to the CR drawing: the orthodox icon for the exact position of the characters, the altar and the mountains; the Austrian wood icon for  the curved blade, the large gesture of Abraham and the semi-circular thingy from where peeks the angel; the Icelandic page for the dove. But this is the first picture, I am not this thorough for the rest of 90 something.

Orthodox icon from the blog of Samuel Schuldheisz  E-nklings

Orthodox icon from the blog
of Samuel Schuldheisz E-nklings

17th century polychrome carved wood relief, possibly from Tyrol - from Christies

17th century polychrome carved wood relief,
possibly from Tyrol – from Christies

Historiated initial from a 14th century Icelandic manuscript - from Wikipedia

Historiated initial from a 14th century Icelandic manuscript – from Wikipedia

2. page 5 Right  – Matthew the Evangelist with his symbol: the angel or winged  man. Saint Matthew writes the Gospel inspired by the shining angel

89071-5b

Fifteenth century Book of Hours from the Glasgow University Library

Fifteenth century Book of Hours from the Glasgow University Library

And a little glitz.

Fourteenth century Italian manuscript from the University of South Carolina Libraries

Fourteenth century Italian manuscript
from the University of South Carolina Libraries

 3. Page 9 RightKing Solomon dedicates the temple to God – a king or a priest in front of a building that could be a temple, facing a floating character. The globus cruciger (the round object with a cross, held by the standing man) shows dominion over the world or part of it, it is a royal attribute.

(4) The Story in the Pictures (pages 5 through 18)

Maybe it is a scene from the second chapter of the Book of Revelation (or Apocalypse) – Messages to the seven churches, in which case the floating figure is Jesus who dictates to John the Apostle a message for each of the churches from Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

The Bamberg Apocalypse, page 8r - from Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, Msc.Bibl.140

The Bamberg Apocalypse, page 8r – from Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, Msc.Bibl.140

But the standing character is holding a globus cruciger, symbol of power over the world, which indicates a king, probably Solomon, dedicating his temple:

Solomon kneels in prayer at the dedication of the temple, Picture Bible, fol. 43r, c.1290-1300, from Koninklijke Bibliotheek

Solomon kneels in prayer at the dedication of the temple, Picture Bible, fol. 43r, c.1290-1300, from Koninklijke Bibliotheek

The interior of the temple of Solomon, Postilla Literalis, fol. 12r, c. 1450-1475, from Koninklijke Bibliotheek

The interior of the temple of Solomon, Postilla Literalis, fol. 12r, c. 1450-1475, from Koninklijke Bibliotheek

4. page 10 Right –Three guys with pointy beards. One is blessing the other two and has a crossed halo, he should be either Jesus or God. But as seen in the first drawing, where Abraham has a similar halo, we can not be sure. The other two seem to have crescent moon shaped implements in their hands.

Could it be God speaking to Moses and Aaron on Mount Sinai? Telling them how they should eat stuff? Or is it Moses speaking to Aaron and Joshua?  “Sorry Aaron,  you are not going to lead my folk into the promised land. Here is this lad (no, Joshua wasn’t that young, but this is how a 120 year old talks to someone in his nineties), he found the land of Canaan, so let my people go with him.” Eventually, Aaron died before Moses, Joshua took over the lead, destroyed Jericho, conquered Canaan, and lived to wrote a book about it.

God speaks to Moses and Aaron, Moses speaks to Aaron and Joshua - Historiated initials - Bible, Paris, cca. 1250-1300 - from Koninkljike Bibliotheek, Medieval Manuscripts

God speaks to Moses and Aaron  – Historiated initials – Bible, Paris, cca. 1250-1300 – from Koninkljike Bibliotheek, Medieval Manuscripts

God speaks to Moses and Aaron, Moses speaks to Aaron and Joshua - Historiated initials - Bible, Paris, cca. 1250-1300 - from Koninkljike Bibliotheek, Medieval Manuscripts

Moses speaks to Aaron and Joshua – Historiated initials – Bible, Paris, cca. 1250-1300 – from Koninkljike Bibliotheek, Medieval Manuscripts

Because of a controversial Hebrew word, some believe Moses had horns (one of them was Michelangelo), others that he had rays of light sprouting from his head. Unfortunately, the CR writer does not go with either version, which would have made things easier. In fact, there is nothing in the picture that helps with a conclusive identification. My insistence with Moses looks like I am fixated on him. The reason is the next picture.

5. page 14 Right – Moses, Aaron and the tables of the law. On the left, with the striped halo is most likely Moses, on the right, his brother and PR agent, Aaron. (This is a long shot, but notice on his coat, under his arm, something like a crescent.)

Anything interesting at Aaron?

Engraving by Hans Sebald Beham, 1526 - from artvalue.com

Engraving by Hans Sebald Beham, 1526 – from artvalue.com

And now the most unusual tables of the law. They are unusual in number, (what is with the table in the center?) and they are unusual in size. Sources describe them as being six handbreadth long. In the Beham engraving above are shown in their standard representation, as two hinged, round-topped rectangles, with the size of a large book, a very large coffee table book.

Moses receiving the tables of the law, Chagall, 1963 - Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, France - from Wikipaintings

Moses receiving the tables of the law, Chagall, 1963 –
Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall,
Nice, France – from Wikipaintings

Tables of the law the size of a man seem as an exaggeration. But lo’ and behold, they are not singular:

Tables of the Law from an Italian Synagogue, dated 1671 - from Jewish Encyclopedia

Tables of the Law from an Italian Synagogue, dated 1671 –
from Jewish Encyclopedia

The original tables had 613 letters for the Ten Commandments. I could not count the letters on the CR tables but they have at least in one place inscribed YHWH (I will explain in  Divine Designators  post why I believe these signs stand for the Tetragrammaton)

so, I guess they intend  to bear the first commandment:
“I am Lord, your God (YHWH), you shall have no other gods before Me”

or maybe the third:
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God (YHWH) in vain“.

 6. page 15 right – Jesus enters Jerusalem and and casts the money lenders out of the temple
 

What a good match! At least for the left half.

Late Gothic (1474) fresco from St. Mary Chapel in Beram, Croatia - from VirtualTourist

Jesus enters Jerusalem – Late Gothic (1474) fresco from St. Mary Chapel in Beram, Croatia – from VirtualTourist

History Bible, fol. 152r.,c. 1430 - from Koninkljike Bibliotheek, Medieval Manuscripts

Cleansing of the temple, History Bible, fol. 152r.,c. 1430 – from Koninkljike Bibliotheek, Medieval Manuscripts

7. page 16 Left – The Annunciation – on the left is the classic scene of the Annunciation – the angel Gabriel comes to the virgin Mary who is reading a book near a lily bush. The Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. On the right side I have no idea what it goes on. An angel gives something to somebody on the top of a mountain.

The building and the composition of the Annunciation in Hvalov zbornik are almost identical. The Hval Manuscript, which is housed in Bologna, at the University Library, is written in Bosnian Cyrillic with several Glagolitic letters and is illuminated by two discernible enlumineures, probably Dalmatians, who painted in Gothic style.

The manuscript of Krstyanin Hval, 1404 - from Croatian History

The manuscript of Krstyanin
Hval, 1404 – from Croatian History

I was unable to find a larger copy, but what seems to be missing are the lily and the book in the Virgin’s hands. Next is an image with every element in place, even God. (Have you spotted God in the CR drawing? Yes, the tiny head at the end of the rays.)

Speculum Humanae Salvationis, page 26v - from Kongelige Bibliotek Denmark

Speculum Humanae Salvationis, page 26v – from Kongelige Bibliotek Denmark

Still, the CR drawing has an extra character. At the window of the tower on the right, there is something that could be a human silhouette, probably Joseph.

8. page16 Right Passover – In the left top corner, again an angel and a man holding the same mysterious object, this time on the roof tops of a city. In the right top corner are two crossed discs. Among the larger characters, one looks  like a priest with a chihuahua. He is a Jewish priest handling the sacrificed lambs, probably for Passover or “The Feast of Unleavened Bread”. The celebration commemorates the departure from Egypt and is strictly regulated in the Leviticus 23:5-8. Essentially, lambs were to be sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem, at dusk,  and eaten that night with flatbread and bitter herbs.

fda7a-16b

The subject of the next painting is completely unrelated, but the circumcision is performed by a Jewish priest, and look at his hat:

Detail of Circumcision of Jesus Christ by Pellegrino da San Daniele - from The Guardian

Detail of Circumcision of Jesus Christ by Pellegrino da San Daniele – from The Guardian

Otherwise, I did not find a matching image, but here are two in the same spirit.

Jews making sacrifice to God, table XII, in Die Miniaturen des Serbischen Psalters, by Josef Strzygowski, on Internet Archive

Jews making sacrifice to God, table XII,
in Die Miniaturen des Serbischen Psalters, by Josef Strzygowski, on Internet Archive

The Jews ate the Pascal lamb, in A Medieval Mirror, Specullum Humanae Salvationis 1324 - 1500, by Adrian Wilson and Joyce Lancaster Wilson onUC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004

The Jews ate the Pascal lamb, in A Medieval Mirror, Specullum Humanae Salvationis 1324 – 1500, by Adrian Wilson and Joyce Lancaster Wilson onUC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004

The two crossed discs could be two flatbreads on a table, or maybe something like this?

Pasca - traditional Romanian Easter Cheesecake - from Papa la Ile

Pasca – traditional Romanian Easter Cheesecake – from Papa la Ile

9. Page 18 Right – Here comes the first divider. End of part 1.
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2 Responses to (4) The Story in the Pictures (pages 5 through 18)

  1. Pingback: Le plus grand commandement | Reading Voynich

  2. Pingback: Yahweh | Reading Voynich

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