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8 Picturing the ‘Living’ Tabernacle in the Antwerp Polyglot Bible

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Chapter Summary

The Antwerp Polyglot Bible (1572) sponsored by Philip II of Spain comprised one of the most important book publishing projects in later sixteenth-century Europe. Of the illustrations in the Antwerp Polyglot, the architectural profiles of the desert tabernacle shown in section (sciographia) and elevation (orthographia) have remained the most puzzling to scholars. The Polyglot presents four pictorial articulations of the Mosaic tabernacle: the plan, Tabernaculum anterius, an elevation of the interior, Tabernaculi interiori, an elevation of the exterior, Tabernaculi exteriori, and an elevation of the completed exterior with its textile and skin coverings, Tabernaculi absoluti. Architectural renderings of the tabernacle are a common feature in earlier bible editions of the period. The chorographic-geographic modality employed in the Polyglot's architectural imagery can be associated with Philip's desire to promote Spain as the new Holy Land, with Madrid as the navel, and the Escorial, its towering umbilicus.

Keywords: Antwerp Polyglot Bible; later sixteenth-century Europe; mosaic tabernacle; Tabernaculi absoluti; Tabernaculi exteriori; Tabernaculi interiori; Tabernaculum anterius

10.1163/9789004275034_010
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