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November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Sotheby’s’

2 Museums Buy Steinhardts’ Rambam Manuscript for Record Price

Monday, April 29th, 2013

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.

Steinhardt Judaica Collection at Sotheby’s Monday

Monday, April 29th, 2013

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.

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/

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