Anonymous: Jonah and the Whale (1400)


(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA)

A painting made by an unknown 14th/ 15th century Iranian artist. this piece shows a well known episode of Jonah or Jonas. Jonah is a man who is mentioned in the Bible, the Talmud and in the Quran. The basis of the story is roughly the same: Jonah was send by God to the city of to Nineveh (n ancient Assyrian city, its ruins are near the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq) and warn its residents to repent of their sins or face divine wrath. How the journey went differs from the religious books. In the Old Testament in the book of Jonah it is told that he instead boarded a ship bound to the town of Tarshish. The boat gets caught in a storm and the sailors in the end throw Jonah overboard whereupon he is swallowed by a giant fish. After three days Jonah agrees to go to Nineveh, the fish vomits him out onto the shore and he delivers his message to the citizens of Nineveh. In the Quran however it is told that Jonah (or Yunus as he is known in de Quran), who was a known to be a pious and righteous man, goes straight to Nineveh and delivers his message. The citizens of Nineveh however are not interested and Jonah gets angry and leaves the city without God's permission. Jonah boards a ship which also gets caught in a violent storm and Jonah also ends up in the belly of the big fish. in the belly Jonah realises that he had gone against the will of God and asks God for forgiveness. Gods forgives Jonah and he is
 ejected onto the shore. Inside the belly of the big fish the skin of Jonah was burned by the acidic juices and on the shore Jonah asks for help. God causes a vine/tree to grow over Jonah offering protection from the elements and provides Jonah with food. This painting was part of a Jami al-Tavarikh (Compendium of Chronicles) and was probably used during oral recitation or storytelling. It shows Jonah emerging from the big fish with the protecting vine behind him and an angel who gives him a garment. Painting from around 1400.


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