Monthly Archives: April 2012

Ezekiel’s Huge Protuberance in an Illuminated Italian Giant Bible

What is the Prophet Ezekiel clutching in this illumination, from Palat. 386, fol. 141r (Parma, Biblioteca Palatina)? A sheath? His engorged bowels? Or something else?

Ezekiel in Palat. 386, fol. 141r, Parma, Biblioteca Palatina

Ezekiel in Palat. 386, fol. 141r, Parma, Biblioteca Palatina

The illumination illustrates Ezekiel 3.3a: “And he said to me, son of man, make your belly eat and fill your bowels with this scroll”.

In a recent article which discusses the illumination, Lila Yawn (“The Italian Giant Bibles”, 2011) makes this interpretation: “A Bible in Parma … shows Ezekiel clasping an object of an unexpected sort – not the parabolic or rectangular scroll, or rotolus, held by other prophets in the manuscript …, but rather a clublike protuberance, apparently a large erection, swelling from the prophet’s groin.”

I think the illuminator has interpreted et viscera tua conplebuntur (ומעיך תמלא) as the engorgement of Ezekiel’s bowels, having been filled with a long scroll. But it’s hard to tell.

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Filed under Ancient Jewish texts, Illuminations