web analytics
May 4, 2015 / 15 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Steinhardt Judaica Collection at Sotheby’s Monday

An exquisite collection, across generations.
The Frankfurt Mishneh Torah, circa 1457-1465. Estimate $4.5/6 million.

The Frankfurt Mishneh Torah, circa 1457-1465. Estimate $4.5/6 million.

The Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting in the world. Visitors to the Louvre looking for a grand painting surrounded by nothing but light and space, are inevitably disappointed. In reality, the portrait is small and a little hard to find.

Before visiting The Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection that is to be auctioned at Sotheby’s this Monday, April 29, I read a lot about it. I read about past Sotheby’s Judaica auctions, about the Steinhardts, and about their collection. Praise was effusive. In the press release, Sotheby’s calls the sale “the most significant collection of Judaica to be offered at auction in half a century.” Forbes Life quotes Elka Deitsch, senior curator of the Bernard Museum at Temple Emanu-El, as saying: “We haven’t seen something like this in breadth and depth and scale and scope for 50 years.” Hearty praise, indeed.

With all that hype and build up, I was expecting to be a little let down. But I was not disappointed in the least.

I will go as far as to say that I think Cissy Grossman is genius. Grossman is the curator of the Steinhardt’s Judaica collection who made extremely strategic choices that come across as effortless. The piece de resistance is unquestioningly the Frankfurt Mishneh Torah, circa 1457-1465, and fittingly, it ends the exhibit. But it is visible from the minute you enter.

The atmosphere is as cozy and as intimate as this sort of exhibit can be. The low lighting and spare setting is cohesive and sophisticated, allowing the pieces to shine (no pun intended, because a lot of them are quite shiny).

The first object on display is the much buzzed about North German Bronze Lion-Form Aquamanile from the late 12th Century. It is one of only four with a Hebrew inscription from the medieval era and is also significant because of how very little material culture exists before the Baroque era. Jews were not accepted into guilds at the time; so, like other objects on display, the object exemplifies collaboration between Jews and Christian artists.

The Franfurt Mishneh Torah – the standardized code of Jewish Law by the brilliant legal, philosophical, and medical mind of the Rambam – from the mid 15th century is exquisite. There is no tradition from which the illustrations are drawn and they are all text-related which highlights the great collaboration between the scribe Nechemiah and the Christian artist (name unknown). It is one of two volumes, the first part, books I-V (the sixth presumably lost), is in the Vatican and books VII-XIV are in the present volume.

For the record, when I asked why it was open to Shoftim, expecting a philosophical or visual explanation (i.e. it was the most beautifully illustrated page), Sharon Liberman Mintz, senior consultant for Judaica at Sotheby’s told me it was “comfortable.” It is in the interest of preservation that it was opened to whichever page opened most easily and this was it. Lucky for us, it’s gorgeous.

The collectors do not disappoint either. Michael Steinhardt is surprisingly candid. A self-proclaimed atheist, he is a leading philanthropist in the Jewish world, perhaps most recognized as the co-founder of Taglit-Birthright Israel. Though he doesn’t believe in G-d, he believes in Jewish culture and history. He believes in it so much that the auction has an extraordinary range of prices, from tzedakah boxes that are expected to go from $100 to the Mishneh Torah that is estimated to fetch $4.5/6 million. He has said the scope of the auction is to encourage the spread of the objects to a new generation.

Jennifer Roth, head of Sotheby’s Judaica and Israeli Art Department, put it this way: “Instead of giving to a museum, he wants them to go out in the world.” He is “not trying to educate anyone,” but wants to “touch their Jewish hearts.” He believes that this makes it more personal and therefore creates a stronger connection to Jewish history and culture. I agree.

If the collection were in a museum, you might see the objects a handful of time and might even forge a small connection, as I felt with some of the pieces in the exhibition. To have one of these pieces in your home is so much more personal. It connects the owner to every previous owner and every owner to come.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Steinhardt Judaica Collection at Sotheby’s Monday”

  1. Dan Silagi says:

    That Mishneh Torah, the most valuable piece in the collection, was just sold just prior to the auction, to a consortium of the Israel Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, price unspecified. My guess that it'll divide its time between the two institutions. So we'll all get a chance to see it after all. (This was reported on Bloomberg News.)

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Police and medics treat terrorist who was shot after trying to stab a guard at the light rail.
Update 12:07 PM: Terrorist Shot while Trying to Stab Jew at French Hill
Latest Sections Stories
blintze_cake

“DouxMatok’s technology will allow for a reduction of 30-60 percent of sugar in a product, depending on the application, and with no effect on taste.”

Schonfeld-logo1

How do we ensure that our students aren’t studying for the grade or the end-of-the-year pizza party? How can we get them to truly want to learn for learning’s sake?

Kupfer-On-Our-Own-NEW

The message being conveyed is that without “flour,” without the means to support oneself and one’s family, one’s focus on Torah will be impeded by worry.

Someone close to us knew that you were good at saving marriages and begged us to give therapy one last chance,

Rabbi Pinni Dunner and Holocaust survivor Heddy Orden.

He wrote a strong defense of shechitah in which he maintained that the Jewish method of slaughter had a humanitarian influence on the Jewish people.

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be the keynote speaker at the Westchester Government Relations Legislative Breakfast on Friday, May 8, at 7:45 am at the Jewish Community Center of Harrison.  The annual event, which brings together important elected officials and the Westchester Jewish community, is sponsored jointly by UJA-Federation of New York […]

“Like other collaborative members, we embarked on this journey as an opportunity to build on New York leadership’s long commitment to expand and diversify opportunities for Jewish teen engagement,” says Melanie Schneider, senior planning executive with UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal

The poetry slam required entrants to compose original poetry with powerful imagery and energetic rhythm bringing their poems to life – making it palpable to the audience.

“I was so inspired by the beautiful lessons I learned and by the holiness around me that I just couldn’t stop writing songs!” she says.

But Pi Day is worst of all
I want the extra credit bad
But trying to remember many numbers
makes me sad.

Several thousand Eastern European Jews had escaped Nazi death and Soviet persecution by fleeing to Shanghai, China.

More Articles from Gilit Cooper
The Frankfurt Mishneh Torah, circa 1457-1465. Estimate $4.5/6 million.

An exquisite collection, across generations.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/an-exquisite-collection-across-generations-michael-and-judy-steinhardt-judaica-collection-auction-at-sothebys/2013/04/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: