The Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York jointly paid a record price for a copy of a medieval religious text by Rabbi Moshe Maimonides (Rambam).
The 15th-century Mishneh Torah was purchased from businessman and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, Sotheby’s said Monday. The auction house did not divulge the exact purchasing price, but said it exceeded $2.9 million.
”The acquisition of this remarkable manuscript by the Israel Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art is poetic given [my wife] Judy’s and my longstanding involvement with both institutions,” Steinhardt said in a statement, adding that it is “particularly meaningful that this event marks the first significant collaboration between the two museums.”
According to Sotheby’s this copy of The Mishneh Torah is one of the finest illuminated Hebrew manuscripts ever created. The text is a synthesis of Jewish law and arguably the most important halachic work in Jewish history since the completion of the Babylonian Talmud..
The sold manuscript, with its superbly-penned text and magnificent illustrations, was originally conceived in two volumes. The first part, now in the Vatican (MS. Ross.498), comprises books I-V, and this volume consists of books VII-XIV. It features six splendid nearly full-page illuminated illustrations as well as forty-one initial word panels, images and marginal illuminations and is by far the most profusely illustrated manuscript of the Mishneh Torah ever made.
The copy of the Mishneh Torah was completed in northern Italy in 1457. The rest of Steinhardt’s prized Judaica collection has gone on sale on Monday.
According to Sotheby’s, “the exceptional and rare objects comprising the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection illustrate the grand sweep of Jewish history, from antiquity through the 20th century, across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. These manuscripts, silver and decorative objects, textiles and fine art touch every aspect of Jewish life, and represent the dual worlds of observance and cultural heritage at home and in the synagogue.”
JTA content was used in this report.