Leaf from the Teutonic Knights' Bible
Water-based pigments, gilding and ink on parchment
Museum no. 9036.E
The margin shows a monkey on an ass shooting an arrow at another monkey on a bull and holding a shield and club. This is obviously not a Bible image. The back of this manuscript has clearly visible hair follicles attached to the skin.
This leaf comes from a large Bible consisting of three volumes made for the monastery of the Teutonic Knights at Nieuwe Biesen, near Maastricht in the Netherlands. They are dated about 1300. The text, written in Latin, is from the Book of Esther.
These books were very large. They were designed to be read aloud from a lectern (a reading desk) to the assembled congregation, or to monks and nuns during meal times and prayer. Several volumes were needed to contain the complete text of the Bible.
Although not visible here on the webpage, when viewing the original pages, prickings (marks made at the side of a page with a point or knife) can be clearly seen. These acted as a guide for ruling the lines on which the text was written.
Comic figures combining human and animal form, in this case a monkey on an ass shooting arrows at a monkey with a shield and club on a bull, were sometimes added to the margins of the text. These decorations, known as grotesques, often bear no obvious relation to the texts they are decorating.
This print can be found in Print Room Box 11a.