Meshulam Simmel, the scribe and illuminator of this Dedication page, is one of the most important Jewish scribes and artists of the 18th century. He came from Polna in Bohemia and settled in Vienna as early as 1714, as is evident from the earliest dated manuscript signed by him (Seder Tikkunei Shabbat, Vienna, 1714, London, B.L., Add. Ms. 11433). Most of his signed works are from Vienna, including his latest known work from 1756 (Passover Haggadah, S. Segre Amar collection in Montana, Switzerland). In this period of activity he also worked in other cities such as his native city-Polna (Seder Birkat ha-Mazon, 1717. Tel Aviv, Einhorn Collection), and Prague (Seder Tikkunei Shabbat, 1716,Jerusalem,Israel Museum, 180/5). Most of his works are monochrome drawings imitating copper, engravings done in sepia and grisaille as is in our leaf, although some of his manuscripts are multicolored.
Although, Simmels' works are mostly small prayer books for private use, we know of other similar dedication pages with the Prayers for the welfare, which are most probably produced by him. One of which is the 1734 document, written in the name of the community of Eisenstadt for Paul II Anton Esterhazy (1734-1762) (now in theEsterhazyPalacein Eisenstadt, Inv. Nr. 1936/428) another one is the dedication page in similar style written for the Duke of Dietrichstein in Nikolsburg (Christie's, New York, East, 24 June 1998, Lot. 1).
The style and motifs of our sheet is influenced by the contemporary "Royal Style" in Austria. The use of bunch of fruits and flowers bouquets, for example, or the depictions of gardens and human masks are typical to this style. Also typical are the depictions of the portraits of the emperor and his wife as well as that the Taler, which follow contemporary engravings of royal figures (compare are the Albrecht Schmidt Augsburg's works).
Simmel's style is also close to the Jewish Bohemian-Moravian schools of illuminations of the 18th century, which often follow the Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695 and the Venice Haggadah of 1609.
Some of his motifs were influenced by medieval Hebrew illuminated manuscripts or early printed books such as the spared ground technique letters each depicted in a separate panel filled with animals and floral background recalls, for example, the letters of the title page of the Pesaro Mahzor, printed by Soncino in Pesaroin c. 1520. The ribbon-like letters in our sheet appear also earlier, for example, in several manuscripts of Joel ben Simeon (see: Joel ben Simeon Ashkenazi Haggadah, Germany, mid 15th century (London, British Library, Add. Ms. 14762, e.g. fols. 23v, 24.) and the Murphy Haggadah, Northern Italy, mid 15th century (Jerusalem, Jewish National and University Library, Heb. 40 6130, fol. 22v).
Indeed, since these motifs appear in another 18th century Hebrew book illumination, it is not easy to establish a direct influence of the medieval illuminated manuscripts on Simmel's works. For example, in the prayer book of Aryeh Judah Loeb ben Elhana Katz done in Vienna, in 1716/7 (NY, Jewish Museum, 85-79. see: Kleeblatt & Mann, Treasures of the Jewish Museum, pp. 96-97), the initial word is composed by separate panels for each letter on animal and scroll background. Also in Seder Tikkunei Shabbat from Hamburg in 1724, the scribe-artist, Yakob Sofer mi-Berlin, designed his initial words in ribbon-like forms (Israel Museum, 180/10; See: Fishof, 1987, p. 92).
Some of the motifs in our sheet were already used by Simmel in his earlier works. The animals used within the letters' panels appear already, for example, in Simmel's Perek Shirah copied in Vienna in 1721 (Private Collection. See: From Court Jews to the Rothschilds, pp. 112, 169).
This sheet which includes three versions of prayers for the welfare of the king are usually recited in the synagogue service in Shabbat and festivals prayers in the morning after the reading of the Torah. The earliest record of this prayer is from the 10th century, however, traditionally it is attributed to Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 29:7): "Seek the peace of the city… and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace" and to R. Hanina (Avot 3:2): "Pray for the welfare of the government; since but for fear thereof, men would swallow each other alive." There are several versions of the prayer for the Welfare. The most common one, which starts with the words: הנותן תשועה למלכים... "May He Who dispenseth salvation unto kings…", appears in the left column of our sheet.
We know that this sheet was not hanged or used in a synagogue. According to the Dedicatory inscription of another sheet executed by Simmel for Charles VI, a year later, in 1733 (ONB, Cod. Hebr. 224), both of them were presented to the Emperor and his wife. The reason why Simmel made these pages for the emperor is not clear. Schubert suggested that it is was probably as an honor for Charles VI, who saved the Jews of Vienna from anti-Semitism mobs that called to murder the Viennese Jews in 1715 (The Austrian Jewish Museum, pp. 17- 18). Another suggestion is that Simmel might have wanted to get any kind of position in the Habsburg court as another prominent Jewish scribe-artist, Aaron Wolf Herlingen, received. Herlingen who settled in Vienna at the same period as Simmel reached the high position of "the scribe of the Royal Library of Vienna" (see: From Court Jews to the Rothschilds, p. 150).
Parchment, one leaf.
Full page : 840 X 693 mm.
Text space: 690 X 547 mm.
The text is written in square and semi-cursive Ashkenazi script and in capital and minuscule Latin script in dark and light brown ink. Each type of script is written in various sizes.
Number of columns
The text is written in three main columns, each of which is divided into smaller sections.
Number of lines
Various numbers of lines.
Ruling on lines and lines.
Location(e.g. fols )
The verso side of the leaf is blank?
The text is written on a large sheet in three columns and surrounded by an illustrative and decorative border.
The right and left text columns are arranged similarly with an initial word panel at the top, the name Carolus at the centre, and an illustrative panel at the lower part of the column. The middle column includes an illustrative panel at the centre and the name Carolus at the lower part.
The text within the columns is written in shaped-text in different sizes and characters of script, is inserted carefully in a symmetrical order.
All was done in ink and sepia by the hand of the scribe and artist Meshulam Simmel. This well-balanced composition gives a prominent place to the image of the Emperor by emphasizing his name three times. He is also accompanied by the portrait of his wife the Empress and by the depiction of the Taler, which symbolizes his sovereignty. Elizabeth's portrait and the Taler are portrayed in the lower sides of the sheet, leaving the main position for His Majesty the King.
- Three illustrative panels, in each column: enclosing the portraits of Emperor Charles VI (central column), Empress Elizabeth Christina (right column), and the depiction of the Taler (left column).
- Decorative border with biblical scenes, courtly architecture, and decorative motifs. Eight biblical scenes are set at the right and left sides of the borders illustrating the eight figures in the "Who delivereth" (Mi She'ana) prayer written in the middle column: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, David and Solomon. The illustrations on the right border are (from top to bottom): Sacrifice of Isaac, Isaac blessing Jacob, Jacob wrestling with the angel and Joseph interpreting Pharaoh's dreams. The illustrations on the left border are (from top to bottom): Moses with the tablets of the Law, Aaron the High Priest, David as a musician and King Solomon. Each scene is alternated by a quatrefoil cartouche inscribed with the verses corresponding to the illustrated figure, and by decorative elements such as the vase of flowers, mask or floral decoration. The upper and lower sides of the border are decorated by vignettes of courtly architecture, a bunch of fruits, human masks and geometrical motifs.
- Two decorated initial words on the right and left columns: the initial words: G-d (right column) and Who gives (left column) are both written within inhabited panels and flanked by narrow panels of small lozenges.
- Decorated initial letters: The name Carolus on both right and left columns is written in large letters in spared ground technique, each within a separate illustrative panel of animals and wanderers. In the middle column, the letters of the name Carolus are designed as ribbon-like.
Decorated smaller letters