web analytics
April 18, 2015 / 29 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Christie’s Mahzor: At Home in Florence?

Mahzor; “Kol Nidarim” illuminated manuscript (ca. 1490s). Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd, 2012

Mahzor; “Kol Nidarim” illuminated manuscript (ca. 1490s). Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd, 2012

In its way the illuminated initial word “Hashkiveinu (Lay us down to sleep)” is clearer and more to the point. The homebound prayer of the bedtime Shema is here illustrated with a scene in a canopied bed. The husband is on the far side of the bed, his red kippah identifying him as he faces towards the rear wall ostensibly saying the bedtime Shema. His wife is seen on the near side of the bed, holding the covers up over her body and facing us with a startled and concerned expression. Piety and modesty in action.

Mahzor; “Blessing the Moon” illuminated manuscript (ca. 1490s). Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd, 2012

Perhaps another cross-cultural expression is to be found in the full-page illumination of “Order of Rosh Chodesh and Blessing the Moon.” The scene is set with a Renaissance nobleman, alone and elegantly dressed with cape and hands lifted in an approximation of prayer. He gazes piously, again bare headed, at the moon and the stars in a paradoxically daytime scene. The crescent moon is filled in by a face of a smiling ”man in the moon.” The religiosity shown in this simple image is but an approximation of Jewish ritual since both the rites of Rosh Chodesh and Blessing the Moon are notably done in the presence of a minyan.

On the more familial level the Passover Seder is notably illustrated by a depiction of the lifting of the Seder plate during the recitation of Ha Lachma Anya; “This is the bread of our affliction…” The table is laden with various loaves, implements and foods. What is being raised though is not an actual plate but rather a basket, a white cloth covering what appears to be various kinds of fruit. In the prominent foreground is a white dog gnawing on a bone. Much seems to have been lost in the translation.

Mahzor; “Lifting Seder Plate” illuminated manuscript (ca. 1490s). Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd, 2012

This manuscript presents many intriguing questions. Because many of the later illuminations evidence other artists and even non-expert hands, is this an example of a commission in which funding simply ran out and was patched together as best as possible in succeeding generations? Do the conceptual disconnects between the textual ritual and some of the illuminations, point to a failure of communication between the non-Jewish artist and the patron? Perhaps most importantly, was the Jewish patron satisfied with the final product? Was the comfort level perhaps more of an illusion on the Jewish side than the reality of the Renaissance Christian/humanist consciousness? Much further study is needed to uncover some of this manuscript’s mysteries.

It should be noted that while I only had 20 minutes to examine the machzor while it was in New York, the preliminary scholarship of Kay Sutton of Christie’s and Ilana Tahan of the British Library provided an invaluable foundation for many of my observations. I believe that this machzor provides a complex and fascinating example of Jewish/Gentile relations in Renaissance Italy and sincerely hope that the next owner will provide ample opportunity for future scholarly study.

Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


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.

No Responses to “Christie’s Mahzor: At Home in Florence?”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Daniel Lubetzky  president of V15 and CEO of Kind "healthy" bars
No Victory for V15 and Not Healthy ‘Healthy’ Snack Bars
Latest Sections Stories
Lewis-041715-Jewish-Soldiers

During the Second World War, a million and a half Jewish soldiers fought in the Allied armies, the Partisan units in Eastern Europe, and the anti-fascist underground movements in Western Europe and North Africa. These Jewish fighters won over 200,000 medals and citations. The Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II in Latrun, […]

Jerusalem Heights Penthouse

The 2-day real estate event will take place in Brooklyn on April 26 and 27.

Schonfeld-logo1

She wasn’t paying attention to what the child did when the mother was not in the room. Rather, her main focus was on what the child did when the mother returned.

The Mets at least have hope for the future with some good young pitchers.

French thinkers of the Enlightenment were generally not pro-Semitic, to say the least.

My Jewish star was battered, indeed it was a wreck
But I picked it up anyway and put it around my neck
To know that hatred mangled it was surely very painful
But just the same to me it is still very beautiful.

A compulsion is a repetitive action. But what underlies the compulsion is an obsession or fear.

When any student in the building is in danger of failing, the equivalent of tornado warning sirens should wail around the school.

It goes without saying that when it comes to your kids, safety is always your number one priority.

After the last of Austria’s Jews were murdered, Albert confiscated whatever Jewish property remained.

How can you expect people who go through such gehenom to even know how to give warmth and love?

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/christies-mahzor-at-home-in-florence/2012/05/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: