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15th Century Machzor in Christie’s Books and Manuscripts Auction

Christie's is auctioning a stunning, 400-page Machzor from 1490 Italy.

Christie's is auctioning a stunning, 400-page Machzor from 1490 Italy.

ArtDaily reports that on April 16-17, Christie’s New York will unveil “a rare and splendid example of Renaissance Judaica,” an illuminated manuscript Machzor that will be included in the May 11, 2012 Books and Manuscripts auction at Christie’s Paris.

With more than 400 pages, this manuscript, printed on vellum (calf’s skin) is a festival prayer book written in Hebrew, created in Tuscany, and probably Florence, circa 1490. It is being offered at auction for the first time, at a value estimated between $540,000 and 800,000.

According to ArtDaily, the illuminating manuscript was purchased in Frankfurt before 1908 and was subsequently owned by Edmond Bicart-Sée. It has never been publicly exhibited and has remained in the possession of his descendants in Paris for over eighty years.

The Machzor, with prayers for the high holidays and the three pilgrimages, is richly highlighted in gold with renaissance motifs and contains everyday customs, rituals and practices of Jewish life.

ArtDaily reports that the striking frontispiece of the Machzor is in the characteristic style of Giovanni di Giuliano Boccardi, known as Boccardino il vecchio (1460-1529) – “one of the last representatives of the golden age of Florentine Renaissance Illumination.”

The Jewish community of Florence flourished in the 15th century, their position closely linked to the fortunes of the Medici. While there are other Hebrew manuscripts illuminated by Christian Florentines, this Mahzor is the only example we know illuminated by Boccardino.

About the Author: Tibbi Singer is a veteran contributor to publications such as Israel Shelanu and the US supplement of Yedioth, and Jewish Business News.


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