Illumination with Scenes from Scripture

France, 2nd half of the 13th century
Manuscript Illumination
Bern Burgerbibliothek, codex 27, folio 2r

The scenes of Adam and Eve's sin and expulsion at the bottom of the illumination are thematically paired with those at the top which picture the coming of Christ to atone for their sins and those their descendants. In the lower right, as the angel with the flaming sword drives them from Eden they already hold in their right hands the hoe and distaff which emblematize the labor to which God has condemned them.

In the middle register the left and right roundels refer to the Old Law represented by Moses' tablets and the New Law represented by the scroll in the hand of the evangelist on the right. Moses is identified by his horns and the tablets themselves; the other person to be an evangelist because of the context and the scroll.

The person being approached by the devil in the middle roundel is hard to identify.

In the upper register the left and right roundels picture the Annunciation (that is, the moment of the incarnation of the Son of God) and the Nativity. In the latter the ox and ass press their muzzles into the manger, a Eucharistic allusion that came to be quite common in the years after the mid-13th.

In the center of the upper register is King David, identified by his crown and harp. He was believed to be the author of the Book of Psalms, many passages in which were considered as prophecies of the Nativity.

The Nativity scene, like most of the others, is highly conventional. The ox and ass put their muzzles into the manger, where Mary has placed the Christ Child. Joseph has his right hand to his cheek as usual.

Left of the Nativity is another person believed to have prophesied it, King David with his harp. And left of him is an Annunciation that because of the small size lacks the architectural separation usually placed between Mary and the angel.

Read more about images of the Annunciation and the Nativity.
Read more about images of King David, Moses, and Adam and Eve.

Source: e-Codices