(b. ca. 1420, Tours, d. ca. 1480, Tours)

Flavius Josephus: The Jewish Antiquities

c. 1465
Manuscript (Ms. français 247, 2 volumes), 430 x 290 mm (folio size)
Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Titus Flavius Josephus (37–c. 100) was a scholar who witnessed the sack of Jerusalem, a first century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer who was born in Jerusalem — then part of Roman Judea — to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry. His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75) and The Jewish Antiquities (c. 94). The twenty books of Jewish Antiquities were intended to serve the improved understanding and rehabilitation of his people and to describe its culture beginning with the world's creation down to the time of Emperor Nero, partly relying on Biblical sources.

In 15th century a large number of illuminated manuscripts were dedicated to the Jewish past. The most famous version is the present edition in two volumes now kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. This manuscript contains the history of the Jews based on the Old Testament as well as the history of the Jewish revolt against Rome until the fall of the fortress of Masada in A.D. 72. It is a translation from Latin to French, datable to the period of Charles V. The 11 large-scale miniatures were executed by Jean Fouquet and his assistants.

This miniature depicting Taking of Jerusalem is from the illustrated manuscript of Les Antiquités Judaïques (Flavius Josephus, De antiquitatibus Iudaeorum). Eleven of the illustrations in this manuscript is by Fouquet whose miniatures were commissioned by Jacques d'Armagnac, Duc of Nemours between1470 and 0476. Many of the narratives are massed battle scenes and sieges in the Old Testament as described by Josephus.

In the centre of the present illustration soldiers set fire to the great Temple of Solomon. Fouquet repeats the topography of Jerusalem as he depicted it in an earlier frontispiece in which the building of the temple is vividly presented with workers engaged in the activities of the medieval mason's lodge. In keeping with the Old Testament description, the temple is cubic in form, but the elevation is wholly French Gothic.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.