On account of their iconographical interest and simple charm let us select some signs of the Zodiac – in this type of Mahzor they illustrate two piyyuts by Eleazar Kalir (6th c.), the prayer for dew and rain on the Day of Atonement. The types of representation of the signs of the Zodiac in our manuscript closely correspond to similar representations in contemporary Christian calendars, breviaries and psalters. 160 Within the framework of the religio-astrological interpretation of the cosmic system, the Zodiac represents the signs of the night sky while the illustrations of the months stand for the earth by representing the labours characteristic of the given period of the year. 161 The most interesting and most enigmatic of all of them is without doubt the sign of Gemini. Generally, the representation of this sign ranges from a transformation of Castor and Pollux as a caressing pair of a male and female to two armed knights embracing in a fight. 162 In our case we can see two dog-headed figures facing each other holding an unidentifiable device with a shaft in their hands (a mirror with a red frame? a shaft or stick with a red plate? a flower?). 163 It also seems as if the figure on the right had a kerchief on its head, suggesting that the figures are male and female. 164 Such a representation of Gemini is unknown elsewhere in Europe, and Gotthard Strohmaier has succeeded in tracing this motif to the Islamic world at the same time recognizing it also in one of the enigmatic ornamentations of a mediaeval German altarcloth dating from the end of the 13th century, the so-called Zehdenicker Altartuch, one of the treasures of the Märkisches Museum in Berlin. 165 The problem requires further investigation. In the accompanying medallion, in Müller's and von Schlosser's view, the female figure can be taken to represent the idealized love of mediaeval German courtly and knightly love, Frau Minne, with crown and sceptre, sitting in the flowering branches of a tree and holding a falcon on her left hand. Narkiss and Sed-Rajna recognize in this figure the labour of hawking or the flower-bearer characteristic of the month of Siwan. 166 In Sed-Rajna’s opinion the man is wearing a crown. Perhaps rather a falconer's cap? In general, both motifs – the falconer/hawking and man/woman with flowers – were common for April-May-June and August. 167 Sed-Rajna stresses that the female figure may hark back to an antique prototype, that of Rosalia, too, representing the awakening of Nature. 168 The fantastic representation of Cancer, perhaps betraying Oriental influence, is also remarkable: “a hybrid animal composed of a wolf’s body and head, a griffon's paws and a fish for a tail” 169 – this type of representation is unique to our manuscript, it cannot be found anywhere else. Next to it we see a man digging the soil as the labour of the month of Tammuz 170 – while the representation of Scorpion as a tortoise should not surprise us, because an illuminator living in the vicinity of Lake Constance at the beginning of the 14th century may not have had the faintest idea what a real scorpion looked like – the labour of the month of Marheshwan is the vine harvest. 171 It may be noted in this context that the representation of Scorpion as a tortoise among the signs of the Zodiac was common in contemporary Christian art, too. 172 The combined sign of Aquarius and Capricorn radiates a certain rustic atmosphere with the beautiful sweep (draw-well) and the kid quenching its thirst from the bucket. Next to it we see in two medallions a sower and a peasant “holding up a boot while warming his bare foot by the fire, above which hangs a cauldron.” 173 The figure of a man warming himself by the fire was a widespread motif in the representation of the winter months (December, January). 174
In perhaps the most famous illustration of the whole manuscript, decorating the frontispiece to the Song of Songs, we see King Solomon seated on his throne in the company of his animals with the Queen of Sheba in front of him, whom the artist has portrayed with an animal's head in the upper left-hand compartment. It seems to be no pure coincidence that Solomon and the Queen of Sheba appear together at the head of the Song of Songs: Solomon is indicated as the author in the title of the work itself, consequently the Lover can easily be identified with him, while a widespread, old tradition going back to Philon of Alexandria and eminently maintained by Isidore of Seville among others identifies the Beloved, the Bride, with the Queen of Sheba. This tradition enjoyed considerable popularity in the Middle Ages. 175
Sed-Rajna 1983. 32-37, esp.
32-33. Gerlinde Strohmaier-Wiederanders: Imagines anni. Monatsbilder. Von
der Antike bis zur Romantik. Halle 1999. This latter work deals
extensively and exhaustively with the characteristic representations of
the labours of the months appearing in the medallions accompanying the
signs of the Zodiac. Cf. also Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie
1968-1976. III. 274-279.
161 Strohmaier-Wiederanders 1999. 46.
162 See Sed-Rajna 1983. 34
163 Müller – von Schlosser: Bilderhaggaden 1898. 117. Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Tripartite Mahzor, vol. I. Card No. 13.
164 Loc. cit. See also Sed-Rajna 1983. 34.
Astrologie auf dem Zehdenicker Altartuch. In: Jahrbuch des
Märkischen Museums IV. Berlin 1978. 105-108, 204 (Abb. 31).
166 Müller – von Schlosser: Bilderhaggaden 1898. 117. Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Tripartite Mahzor, vol. I. Card Nos 13-15.
167 See Strohmaier-Wiederanders 1999. 33, 40, 47, 50, 59, 69.
168 Sed-Rajna 1983. 37.
169 Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Tripartite Mahzor, vol. I. Card No. 16.
170 Müller – von Schlosser: Bilderhaggaden 1898. 117-118. Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Tripartite Mahzor, vol. I. Card Nos 16-17.
171 Müller – von Schlosser: Bilderhaggaden 1898. 118. Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Tripartite Mahzor, vol. I. Card Nos 24-25.
172 Sed-Rajna 1983. 34.
173 Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Tripartite Mahzor, vol. I. Cards Nos 28-30. Cf. Müller – von Schlosser: Bilderhaggaden 1898. 118.
174 Strohmaier-Wiederanders 1999. 39, 59, 64, 68, 72, 74 (with a cauldron above the fire), 78.
175 Chastel 1949. 101. Id.: Fables, formes, figures. Paris 1978. I. 90-91. Cf. also Edward Ullendorff: Ethiopia and the Bible. London 1968. 131-145. Giovanni Canova: Thaclabī. Storia di Bilqīs, regina di Saba. Venezia 2000. 2-54, 101-108. Aviva Klein-Franke: Die Königin von Saba in der jüdischen Überlieferung. In: Die Königin von Saba. Kunst, Legende und Archäologie zwischen Morgenland und Abendland. Herausgegeben von Werner Daum. Stuttgart – Zürich 1988. 105–110. André Chastel: Regina Sibilla. Ibid. 117-120. Thaclabī’s version of the story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba from his Qisas al-anbiyâ’ can be consulted in Chrestomathie aus arabischen Prosaschriftstellern. Ed. by Rudolf Brünnow. (Porta Linguarum Orientalium, Pars XVI). Berlin–London–New York 1895. 1-22. A remarkable independent development of the story of the Queen of Sheba can be found in the Legenda Aurea, where the Queen and Solomon at one point get involved with a piece of wood out of which the cross of Jesus Christ will be hewn later on, a fact of course not concealed from the Queen. J. De Voragine: Die Legenda aurea aus dem Lat. übersetzt von Richard Benz. Berlin 1963. 378-379.
176 Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Tripartite Mahzor, vol. I. No. 37.
177 Réau 1955-1959. II. I. 289. Sed-Rajna 1987. 126. Earlier the identification of the two female figures in the lower left compartment was not unambiguous: from their gestures Narkiss concluded that we might have Solomon's judgement before our eyes. Narkiss 1967-1968. 133. Cf. the corresponding scene in the so-called Second Nürnberg Haggadah (fol. 40v), which leaves no doubt as to its interpretation. Müller – von Schlosser: Bilderhaggaden 1898. 169-170 [Fol. 40'], Tafel XXVI. Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1981. Card No. 164. It may be remarked that in Jewish mysticism, the Qabbalah, the Queen of Sheba is sometimes identified with Lilith, who in turn is sometimes regarded as identical with one of the two females requesting Solomon's decision. Gershom Scholem: Lilith und die Königin von Saba. In: Die Königin von Saba 1988. 165.
178 Müller – von Schlosser: Bilderhaggaden 1898. 119. Sed-Rajna 1983. 29-30. Narkiss – Sed-Rajna 1988. Tripartite Mahzor, vol. I. Cards Nos 34-38. The representation mainly follows the Targum Sheni to Esther based on 1 Kings 10:18-21. Sed-Rajna 1987. 126-127, 130 [fig. No. 148]. On the symbolic interpretation of Solomon's throne see Réau 1955-1959. II. I. 293-294. Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie 1968-1976. IV. 21-22. King Solomon's seal. Ed. Rachel Milstein. Jerusalem [c. 1995]. 20-28, 183-182 [!].On Solomon's throne in the Islamic tradition see Priscilla Soucek: Solomon's throne/Solomon's bath: model or metaphor? In: Ars Orientalis 23 (1993) 113-114.
179 Ibid. 127. Cf. ibid. 155-156. For another remarkable representation of Solomon's throne see Mathias Köhler: Bebenhausen. Klosteranlage und Schloß. (Führer. Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten.) Heidelberg [c. 2000]. 30.
180 Sed-Rajna 1983. 29-30.
The Queen, wearing a crown, appears in the company of another zoocephalic female and “three human-headed hybrid acrobat-musicians playing a pipe and a tambourine and ringing a bell.” 176 In the lower left-hand compartment we see Solomon's judgement (1 Kings 3:16-28) – according to a popular tradition the Queen of Sheba assisted at the judgement. 177 The King, wearing gloves, a purple mantle and a crown on his head, and holding a sword, is sitting cross-legged pointing to the Torah, which is in the right-hand turret of his throne, while in the left-hand turret there is a lamp – the eternal light. Behind him two columns of his Temple can be seen. He is encircled by the Sun, the Moon and the stars. On the steps of his throne sit various animals. 178 There is only one known parallel in the synagogue at Dura Europos to this most unique representation, but the difference of nearly eleven centuries between the two is likely to preclude any direct connection and we must conclude that the two artists created similar works on the basis of the same text. At the same time we cannot completely discount the idea that in mediaeval Jewry there perhaps existed a tradition of the transmission of pictorial representations going back to Antiquity and still active in the Middle Ages. 179 This representation of Solomon is remarkable because it unites in one composition, without chronological order, all the main feats of Solomon's career: the completion of the Temple, the judgement, to which he owes his reputation of the wise king, and the adoration of the Queen of the South, which mirrors the universal radiation of his reign. The stars, the Sun and the Moon echo medieval legends perhaps which attribute cosmic power to Solomon. 180