Obj. ID: 34777
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts MAHJ Putti Esther Scroll, Northern Italy, mid-18th century
The decorative program of this lavishly decorated megillah is based on an architectonic frame with a balustrade on which a variety of ornamental motifs is placed: putti holding wreaths, flower-filled vases, garlands, birds, rocaille, and shields with a diamond pattern. On membranes nos. 2-5, the pattern spans 3 text columns; above the right and left text columns are putti holding wreaths facing each other, while above the central column there is a shield with a diamond pattern with rosettes. Each column is separated by a flower-filled vase. The first and sixth membranes contain only two text columns: one is decorated with a putto and another one with a shield with a diamond pattern. Above the text panels decorated with wreath-holding putti, there are cartouches containing representations unrelated to the Esther story, such as a sun, a moon, or a deer. Above each capital of the column, a small putto is placed. The Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is written within arcades, flanked by marble (as suggested by their visual appearance) twisted columns. The lower margins are adorned with miniatures chronicling the Purim story framed in cartouches interspaced by columns' bases.
The scroll is accompanied by a separate benediction sheet decorated with the same ornamentation as the megillah itself.
This family of profusely hand-decorated scrolls differ in their details, but all include allegorical representations. In most cases, these are seated women with attributes strongly modeled on the iconographical imageries included in Iconology by Cesare Ripa (1555–1622). His work, first printed in 1593 in Rome, was a favorite manual for European artists in the 17th and 18th centuries.
A part (300 mm wide) of the first membrane is blank.
The sketches of the pattern in pencil are still visible.
The pattern contains some details colored in silver paint.
The scroll features the cartouches painted yellow and red and the narrative scenes included in them are executed solely in different hues of green color.
The manuscript is displayed at the Museum's permanent exhibition.
For the scrolls featuring a similar pattern in the Index see IDs 37657 and 37878.
| inv. D.98.04.075.CL
The length of the sheets in the scroll: 1) 800 mm, 2) 740 mm, 3) 740 mm, 4) 730 mm, 5) 735 mm, 6) 565 mm.
Dimensions of the selected details in the scroll:
- text column - 200x145 mm;
- cartouches in the lower margins - 70x165 mm.
An average letter is 5 mm high, whereas the letters in col. 14 are 10 mm high.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew with the benedictions and the liturgical poem קוראי מגילה Korei Megillah inscribed on a separate sheet
The scroll is formed of 6 membranes (+ a separate benediction sheet) containing 16 text columns with 25 or 26 lines, except for col. 14 with 11 lines divided into two parts.
The text is written in the Sephardi square script with tagin, in black ink on the flesh side of the parchment membranes, which are of medium thickness and rather stiff. It is difficult to distinguish between the two sides of the sheets, but the side with the text and decoration is brighter than the blank side, which is more yellow.
The letter ח (Es. 1:6) is slightly larger than other letters in the scroll; additionally, it is bolded and composed of two parts joined with a roof. The letter ת (Es. 9:29) is enlarged and bolded. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 14.
In col. 14, the lower stroke of the letter ע in the word עשרת is decorated with a tiny tendril. The similar decoration is added to the letter ו in ויזתא.
The ruling (horizontal and vertical lines) is made in pencil on the basis of the pricking visible on the edges of the first and last text panels on every membrane. An exception is col. 14 in which the lines are made with a hard point and the pricking on both sides of the text panel is visible.
The scroll's membranes are stitched together.
A short description in French and images of the manuscript are available at https://www.mahj.org/en/decouvrir-collections-betsalel/rouleau-d-esther-50065 (accessed on 02.07.2020).
Scrolls featuring similar pattern are discussed in:
Iris Fishoff, The Facsimile of the Esther Scroll, Kaufman A 14, Budapest, 1989.
Mendel Metzger, "La Meghillah illustrata della Communita Israelitica di Padova," Rossegna Mensile di lsrael, February-March 1966, 88-92.
Mendel Metzger, "Une Meguilla rococo du XVIIIe siecle," Bulletin de nos communautes, 20th February, 1964, [3 pp., 3 figs.]
R.D. Barnett, Catalogue of the Permanent and Loan Collections of the Jewish Museum London (London 1974),
Treasures of Jewish Heritage. The Jewish Museum London, eds. Rickie Burman, Jennifer Marin and Lily Steadman (London 2006), 145.
A Treasured Legacy: The Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection, lot 100: A Monumental Illuminated Megillat Esther (Scroll of Esther), Northern Italy, Mid-18th Century: https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2013/a-treasured-legacy-steinhardt-n08961/lot.100.html (accessed on 23.07.2020).