Obj. ID: 34776
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts MAHJ Griselini-Related Esther Scroll, Venice, mid-18th century
The manuscript represents the Griselini-Related scrolls whose decoration imitates the scheme designed by Francesco Griselini (see "Griselini scrolls" in the Index). All Griselini-Related scrolls are formed of five sheets with four text panels per membrane and are produced in the mixed technique of the decorative border that is printed (in the exemplar from the Paris collection is also colored) and the hand-written text (in this exemplar inscribed in 19 columns). Its general composition is the same as in the Griselini scrolls and only minor details such as dogs present in the narrative scenes and the checkered floor, differ them.
The scheme is based on the row of arcades under which individual columns of the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther are inscribed. The text panels are separated by columns whose shafts are decorated with varying patterns and whose bases contain floral designs. The upper margins feature cartouches flanked by flowers, pairs of turkeys, roosters, parrots, or hoopoes with their heads turned away from each other on top of a balustrade; all four pairs of birds are printed in the same sequence continuously. On top of the cartouches between turkeys and parrots, there are crowned double-headed eagles, whereas turkeys or peacocks are placed above cartouches between roosters and hoopoes. Vases, flowers, and small citrus trees are interspersed regularly throughout the birds.
The lower margins are decorated with figurative scenes illustrating the narrative of the Book of Esther. They feature Italian architecture and are enclosed in rectangular frames separated by the columns' floral bases.
The same pattern repeats along with the scroll and only the narrative scenes on the subsequent sheets are different.
The scroll is mounted on a wooden roller with a decorative handle; it is likely that it originally was painted.
The scroll is displayed on the MAHJ permanent exhibition.
The beginning of the manuscript is trimmed in a decorative shape.
The last lunette is blank; there was one line of the text inscribed in it but it was erased.
On the second and fifth membranes, the colors are very dense.
In some places, the prints and the text are visible on the blank side of the membranes.
| inv. D.98.04.074.CL (former number Cl 12296d)
I | Illustration
V | Vase | Vase with flowers
C | Columns
O | Ornamentation: | Cartouche
B | Bird
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Flower
O | Ornamentation: | Main text framed
The length of the membranes in the scroll: 1) ca. 535 mm, 2) 470 mm, 3) 465 mm, 4) 465 mm, 5) 465 mm. To the last membrane, a short parchment sheet is stitched; it joins the manuscript with the wooden roller.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- the printed decoration - ca. 260x468 mm;
- a segment with a pair of birds - ca. 35 x ca. 90 mm;
- a balustrade - 27 mm (height);
- a text panel - 120 x ca. 82 mm;
- an illustration - 26x75 mm;
- an average letter: 3 mm (height);
- letters in col. 16: 6 mm (height).
The roller: ca. 540 mm (height).
The scroll is generally preserved in very good condition but not equally good along the entire length of the scroll; the beginning of the manuscript is preserved in the worst condition.
The decoration is the most seriously damaged on the first sheet, whereas on other membranes it is still well preserved and colors are still dense.
The text is very well preserved even if some letters are a bit faded.
Several holes are visible in the fourth sheet, in panel 16 in which the names of Haman's sons are inscribed.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew
The manuscript is formed of 5 membranes containing a total of 19 text columns with 24 lines each, except for col. 16 with 11 lines divided into two half-columns.
The text is written in a square Italian Hebrew script in black ink, on the flesh side of parchment membranes. Some of the letters end with serifs, e.g. the flag of the letter ל which is very characteristic for this scribe.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is a bit larger than other letters and exceptionally for this scribe, it is composed of two parts joined with a roof. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is not enlarged, however, enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 16.
The ruling is made by a stylus and in the text panels it is slightly visible; only in the last lunette that is left blank, it is clearly visible.
The parchment is bright (the blank - hair - side is more yellow than the other), rather thin and stiff.
The membranes in the scroll are stitched together.
Formerly stored in the Strauss collection (no. 79). Donated by Rothschild. The former number of the manuscript is inscribed on a short parchment piece joining the scroll with the steam.
The scroll is described in:
Victor Klagsbald, Catalogue raisonné de la collection juive du Musée de Cluny, Paris 1981, p. 66-67, object 74.
A short description in French and several photographs are available on https://www.mahj.org/en/decouvrir-collections-betsalel/rouleau-d-esther-50121 (accessed on 24.05.2020).
Scrolls sharing the same pattern are discussed for example in:
Mendel Metzger, The Earliest Engraved Italian Megilloth, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 1966, 48/2, 381–432, esp. 416-432 (here the scrolls are called "post-Griselini").
Dagmara Budzioch, The Decorated Esther Scrolls from the Museum of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and the Tradition of Megillot Esther Decoration in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries – An Outline [Polish: Dekorowane zwoje Estery z Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego w Warszawie na tle tradycji dekorowania megilot Ester w XVII i XVIII wieku. Zarys problematyki], Warsaw 2019, 1:135-138.