maandag 9 november 2015

Jerome Xavier and his artists

For the CMR project I corresponded with several colleagues about the Dutch orientalist and theologian Ludovicus de Dieu. He translated two Persian books by the Jesuit Jerome Xavier (on the Life of Christ and Life of Peter). The translation and somewhat nasty commentary by De Dieu were put on the Index (Librorum Prohibitorum: list of forbidden books) by the Catholic Church in 1661. A wonderful book in this tradition is Perdo Moura Carvalhop and Wheeler Thackston, Mir'at al quds (Mirrors of Holiness): A Commentary on Father Jerome Xavier's Text and the Miniatures of Cleveland Museum of Art, Leiden: Brill, 2012.
It has the Persian text, English translation and some commentary, besides a series of 27 Mughal miniatures in the manuscript that is now in Cleveland. As to the commentary: at one place an adjustment to his Muslim public is made by Jerome Xavier. In his discussion of ethical codes, he talks about adultery, swearing, but Xavier omits Jesus' attitude towards divorce (page 38).
The Franciscan Friar Arnulf Camps would have been astonished to see himself labelled a Jesuit on page 13.
These are the three Magi, following the star. Are these hats typical for westerners? The trees and the rocks resemble clearly a Mughal style.

Above the preaching of John the Baptist. He is wearing a coat of camel hair but he is not thin or really as the prophet of the desert. 'the painter .. probably thought that he should portrayed with dignity and not emaciated and humbly dressed'. He is preaching to people of  all sorts. In fact he is pictured in his house and not far from a city. One of the paintings (quite small, Angales bringing food to Jesus in the desert) has a personal signature, one Muhammad Sharif. Maybe the others are also all made by Muslims.
Below we see John the Baptist teaching (looking like a Jesuit, in black, including the hat) while he recognizes Jesus (standing utmost right, with the dove on his head, a rosary with the cross in his hand). The scene is not on the shores of the river Jordan, but within a typically Mughal courtyard. Wonderful book!

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