Golden Haggadah - Scenes from Genesis, folios 2v - 3.
Copyright © The British Library Board
The 14 full-page miniatures are each divided into panels. The
illuminated cycle, usually devoted to events from Exodus, here
also includes scenes from Genesis. The layout of the manuscript,
consisting of a biblical illuminated cycle preceding the text,
was probably modelled on Latin Psalters. Legends from the Midrash,
a collection of rabbinic interpretations of the Pentateuch, illustrate
several panels, demonstrating a thorough knowledge of Jewish sources.
The illuminations up to and including folio 9 were executed by
the first, less skilful artist. The order of the panels on each
page goes from upper right to bottom left.
The panels are framed by blue or brown bands with white pen scrolls
or zigzag patterns and have gold squares stamped in their corners.
Some panels have foliate pen scrolls extending from the corners.
These captions, dating from the 14th century, are mostly paraphrases
of the biblical verses describing the episodes illustrated in the
The panels have a stamped diaper pattern (from the French word diapre meaning
'variegated') on a gold leaf background.
Adam names the animals. A naked Adam points with one hand to the
birds perched on a tree, and with the other hand to the cattle
and beasts approaching him from the right.
On the right, Eve is created from the sleeping Adam's right side;
on the left, Adam and Eve, covering their nakedness with fig leaves,
flank the Tree of Knowledge with the serpent coiled round it. An
angel is about to drive them out of Eden.
Abel, carrying a lamb, and Cain, holding a sheaf of corn, are
preparing to offer a sacrifice; on the left, Cain is reproached
by a winged angel for killing Abel, whose head and arm are seen
buried under Cain's feet.
A bearded Noah, watched by his wife and sons, helps the animals
out of the Ark. A white dove holding a branch on its beak is resting
on the roof of the Ark.
On the right, Noah cuts a cluster of grapes from his vine; on
the left, Noah lies drunk and naked with Shem and Japheth trying
to cover his nakedness. Noah is credited in Jewish legend with
being the first to cultivate the vine.
A midrashic scene, showing the builders of the Tower of Babel
killing each other, when no longer able to understand each other,
after God had confused all their languages.
King Nimrod orders Abraham to be thrown into the fiery furnace.
Two angels rescue him. Particularly popular in Hebrew manuscripts
of the 13th-15th century, this midrashic interpretation can also
be found in 14th-century Christian Latin manuscripts.
Abraham entertains three angels who announce that Sarah, seen
on the left, would bear a son. According to rabbinic legend, the
three visiting angels were Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.