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Border with the Sacrifice of Isaac
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Simon Bening
Flemish, Bruges, about 1525 - 1530
Tempera colors, gold paint, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
6 5/8 x 4 1/2 in.
MS. LUDWIG IX 19, FOL. 191

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The emotional power of the Crucifixion on the opposite page complements the dramatic tone of the meditational text on this page. A rubric in red ink introduces the contents of the reading: Von der blossen kreützigu[n]g und hoher auffhenckung an das Creutz des herren Iesu (Of the stark Crucifixion and the hanging of Lord Jesus high on the cross). The fact that the prayer book is written in German rather than Latin reflects the increasing acceptance of the vernacular as an appropriate language for texts, both literary and sacred.

Simon Bening surrounded the text with an illusionistic frame, as if the words were painted on a tangible wooden panel. The words on a small hanging sign to the right identify the biblical passage (Genesis 22) that tells the story of the Sacrifice of Isaac, the scene shown in the border below. The Old Testament story of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, at the Lord's command was understood as a prefiguration of God's sacrifice of his only son, seen in the Crucifixion on the opposite page. Bening set the scene within a deep, continuous landscape that is only visible in the border, as if the text panel were blocking the observer's view.

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