Another remarkable trait of this manuscript is that it contains many profane illustrations in the margin – in one instance the illustration is even obscene – which bear no relation whatsoever to the text. 128 This cannot be regarded a unique feature of manuscripts produced in the middle of the 13th century: their emergence was closely connected to the spread of Dominican and Franciscan preaching at the time with parables and exempla using motifs from animal fables, bestiaries 129 and 130 – sometimes even becoming completely independent of the text itself. 131 The widespread use of anecdotes in sermons was meant to rekindle flagging interest in theological dogma among believers, and the margin illustrations in manuscripts are to a considerable extent visual manifestations of themes popularized through fabliaux and exempla. 132 Gabrielle Sed-Rajna has shown that most of “the marginal figures have been transferred to this manuscript from a model book used also for several contemporary Latin manuscripts from the same area, executed for the local aristocratic family Bar” – an example of close professional relationship between craftsmen of the Jewish and Christian communities. 133 The popularity of representations of this kind in Christian art in general is attested, for instance, by the fiery diatribe of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) against non-religious monastic ornamentation. 134 It may be remarked that margin illustrations – including obscene representations – abound in Christian liturgical books while they are rare in secular ones, a strange phenomenon, which Randall is inclined to attribute to an attempt at “provocation by contrast.” 135 Not infrequently it is difficult to decipher the exact symbolic meaning of a given illustration; sometimes this is hardly any longer possible in view of the frequent occurrence of more or less abstruse references to contemporary persons and ideas. There can be no doubt, however, that these margin illustrations were often simply the figments of the artists' imaginations, “diversions which relieved the tedium of daily life.” 136 Thus for instance at the bottom of folio 46 of volume I of our manuscript, the frontispiece of the Book of Adoration, we can see a scene “from the Roman de Renard: the fox, having stolen a goose (or here a cock), is pursued by a woman brandishing a spindle.” 137 In connection with the obscene scene in the upper margin – a man shooting an arrow at the nude hindquarters of a man bending forward – one cannot help but imagine the illuminator who, tired of his monotonous work, suddenly conceives a prank just like an adolescent, in the same way as his modern-day successor, the composer of entries in an encyclopaedia, tired of carding, inserts an entry on a non-existent painter into the serious work of reference, or the lexicographer suddenly gives vent to the accumulated tension of monotony in one of his entries. 138 This overtly homosexual scene, which has numerous counterparts in contemporary Franco-Flemish religious manuscripts, 139 appears to be a late testimony of a considerable period of social tolerance which saw the efflorescence and prosperity of various urban minority groups in Western Europe, but mostly in France, during the period of urban revival in the High Middle Ages, which had its climax between 1050 and 1150, and disappeared immediately after the thirteenth century. 140 It was in this stiffening social atmosphere, too, in the course of events accompanying the waning of social tolerance in general, that Jews were expelled from France in 1306, and our manuscript, copied and illuminated in France a few years earlier, was in all probability taken to Cologne by one of the fugitive families. 141
It was not a rare phenomenon for a manuscript to be illuminated with inappropriate scenes: this was a field where contemporary illuminators and copyists were able to display their abilities “indulging in the feeling of freedom with wild leaps and caprices.” 142 Thus in a contemporary manuscript in the Ambrosiana in Milan we come across animals such as cocks, apes and dogs decorating philosophical works, and it can only have been the spread and popularity of such inappropriate animal figures that made Rabbi Yehudah ben Samuel the Pious of Speyer in Germany deem it necessary in the second half of the 12th century to prescribe that upon the employment of Jewish Bible-copyists it should be made a condition that they abstain from executing the massoretic apparatus in the shape of all sorts of animals and birds, as happened for instance in the famous Bible manuscript in the Karlsruhe County Library, which had once belonged to Johann Reuchlin, where one initially has the impression of seeing a whole menagerie of lions, bears, oxen, sheep and other animals only to realize later, after thorough examination, that all these animals are in fact concealing the massoretic apparatus written in an extremely small microscript. 143
Similar representations of animals can be seen in one of the manuscripts of Malmad ha-talmidim, the philosophical sermons by Jacob ben Abbamare (Jacob Anatole), one of the followers of Maimonides, a translator at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. One of the pages (f.4v) of this manuscript (shelf-mark: MS Kaufmann A 287) written in Rimini in Italy towards the end of the 14th century is decorated with splendid illustrations both in the margins and the central parts of the page, crowned by the representation of a lion and lioness lying under stylized trees – the illustration is drawn to life and very nearly radiates the Renaissance joie de vivre. 144
There is another illuminated two-volume copy of the Mishneh Torah in the Kaufmann Collection of considerable weight, which was written in 1310 in Germany (MS Kaufmann A 78). Its artistic qualities, however, fall far behind those of the previous one. In the miniature which ornaments the frontispiece of the Book of Knowledge there is a lion sitting on the top of a dome flanked by two turrets while the bearded, seated figure of Maimonides wearing a pointed hat appears below the central arch. In the upper title compartment four dogs are hunting a stag, watched by a seated rabbit. In the lower compartment, from left to right, we see a man about to hit a quadruped with an axe, a stork, and Samson and the lion, while on the left an owl is watching a bear (?) lick honey from a jar. 145
128 See Gabrielle
The visual dimension of Jewish civilisation. Concepts and realisations
in the present volume.
129 Sed-Rajna 1984. 35.
130 See Gustave Lanson: Histoire de la littérature française. Onzičme édition revue. Paris 1909. 103-109.
131 Sed-Rajna 1984. 35. See also Joseph Gutmann: Hebrew manuscript painting. New York 1978. 84.
132 Lilian M. C. Randall: Images in the margins of Gothic manuscripts. Berkeley – Los Angeles 1966. 8. Cf. Id.: Exempla as a source of Gothic marginal illumination. In: Art Bulletin 39 (1957) 97-107.
133 Gabrielle Sed-Rajna: The illustrations of the Kaufmann Mishneh Torah. In: Journal of Jewish Art 6 (1979). See also her contribution to the present volume The visual dimension of Jewish civilisation. Concepts and realisations.
134 Quoted in Randall 1966. 31.
135 Randall 1966. 14.
136 Ibid., 18.
137 Sed-Rajna 1984. Plate V. On the Roman de Renard, see Lanson 1909. 93-103. Kindlers Literatur Lexikon. Zürich 1965. VI. 450-455. Laffont-Bompiani: Dictionnaire des oeuvres. Paris 1952-1954. IV. 305-309.
138 Művészeti lexikon. [=Encyclopaedia of art]. Edited by Anna Zádor and István Genthon. Budapest. 1965-1968. III. 37 [s.v. Alfred Leanque]. (This ingenious, playful entry deals with a non-existent French painter, whose name reminds a Hungarian reader of the adjective “link” meaning “unserious”, “useless” in colloquial Hungarian.) Előd Halász: Német-magyar szótár [=German-Hungarian dictionary]. 9th ed. Budapest 1988. I. 1035 [s.v. Igel]. (Under this entry, as the equivalent of a familiar German expression, a long obscene quotation reminiscent of a Hungarian folk-song appears.) Or, from a different viewpoint, this illustration can perhaps be regarded as a parallel to the graffiti termed “scatological” by Littmann; Enno Littmann: Thamūd und Safā. Studien zur altnordarabischen Inschriftenkunde. [Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, XXV, 1.] Leipzig 1940. 77-78.
139 See, e.g., Randall 1966. Plates CIV. fig. 502 [Merman and man, shot by], CX-CXII. figs. 533-538, CXII. fig. 539 [shooting hindquarters], fig. 540 [do.], fig. 541 [spear aimed at hindquarters], fig. 542 [trumpet aimed at hindquarters]. Cf. also the lengthy list Randall 1966. 192-194 [Obscaena]. Cf. also Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie 1968-1976. III. 337-338.
140 John Boswell: Christianity, social tolerance and homosexuality. Chicago–London 1981. 209-301, 333-334.
141 Sed-Rajna 1984. 37. Kaufmann 1898. 257. Similarly inappropriate figures appear in medieval church architecture as well; see, e.g., Peter Spranger: Heilig-Kreuz-Münster Schwäbisch Gmünd. Schwäbisch Gmünd 2000. 22.
143 Kaufmann 1898. 257-258, 303. On this see Thérčse Metzger: La masora ornementale et le décor calligraphique dans les manuscrits hébreux espagnols au Moyen Age. Colloques Internationaux de Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. No 547: La paléographie hébraďque médiévale. Paris 11-13 septembre 1972. 87-116, Pl. XCVII-CXII. Joseph Gutmann: Masorah figurata: The origins and development of a Jewish art form. In: Estudios masoreticos (V Congreso de la IOMS) dedicados a Harry M. Orlinsky. Editados por Emilia Fernández Tejero. Madrid 1983. 49-62. [Reprinted in: Gutmann 1989. XV. 49-62].
144 Kaufmann 1898. 290-291. Weisz 1906. 99-100.
145 Kaufmann 1898. 284-285. Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Second Kaufmann Mishneh Torah. Card Nos 4-6.