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September 15, 2014 / 20 Elul, 5774
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Judaica Auctions

Kestenbaum Russian Jewish Couple 19 cent Lot 431

Kestenbaum Russian Jewish Couple 19 cent Lot 431

It was a high price but I congratulate the happy owner, because it is a rare and important piece of Judaica and has a splendid provenance: it is from the collection of Jacob Michael, one of the best collectors in the field.

Among the paintings for auction was a Moritz Oppenheim historical subject which sold for $407,000.  It is a rare occurrence to have an Oppenheim painting offered anywhere and especially one that depicts the kidnapping of the boy Edgardo Mortara by the Papal authorities in 1858, an event which created a worldwide outcry and protest in the Jewish and non-Jewish circles at the time.

An Isidor Kaufman painting of a young rabbi sold for $203,000. Isidor Kaufman was one of the most prominent of the Jewish genre painters at the beginning of the 1900s. In 2007 we sold a portrait of the artist’s daughter (also through Sotheby’s) for $180,000, which in a subsequent sale brought $230,000.

A Wimple (Torah Binder) of exquisite beauty from Italy (circa 1700) sold for $75,000.  A very interesting fragment of a wood carving from a Syrian Synagogue (circa 11th century), a real museum piece, fetched $50,000, but should have brought much more … how many Jewish artifacts have survived the vicissitudes of time?

A beautiful Slichot manuscript on parchment from around 1300 realized $100,000. A “Pinkas” of the leatherworkers from Jassi (Romania) 1832 sold for $45,000 (below the estimate).   A classic Ancona Italy Ketubah from 1779, beautifully ornamented, sold within the estimate – $28,000.

A Mashal Ha-Kadmoni by Isaac ibn Shahula, Venice 1547, with profusely illustrated fables (one of my preferred illustrated books), also sold around its presale estimate: $46,000.

The showstopper in the book and manuscript section was a magnificent engraved Megillat Esther, richly illustrated with scenes from the Purim story (Prague circa 1700). Its presale estimate was $90-100,000 and surprisingly did not sell!

All the above items and prices represent only some of the most important entries in these sales. The bulk of most auctions is comprised of medium and lower end priced items of beautiful and rare Judaica you can acquire.

The next Judaica auctions take place in June 2014 and it’s always exciting to participate.  If an item sells way above its estimate the audience erupts in applause.  If you are a successful buyer on a costly item no doubt you will be approached by dealers offering you “similar” but cheaper wares.   If opportunity allows, do partake of the experience.

About the Author: Romanian-born Peter Ehrenthal came to the States in 1957. He and his son have owned one of the finest Judaica galleries in the world since 1973.


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