Obj. ID: 36173
Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts Museo Sefardí Esther Scroll with Landscapes I, Amsterdam, early 18th century
The scroll is representative of the type aptly called "scrolls with landscapes I", which features a decorative scheme of four different landscapes framed in cartouches that fill the upper margins and repeat on every sheet in the same order:
1. On the left, two men and a dog stand by a gate overlooking a vast landscape of mountains and trees.
2. On the right, two wanderers are depicted approaching a hill with buildings. On the left, a man on horseback rides towards a bridge over a river. In the background, mountains and trees are visible.
3. A fountain in a garden with a palace in the background.
4. On the right, a man sitting under a tree. In the background, a landscape of mountains, trees, and buildings.
It is difficult to prove a direct connection between the landscapes and the narrative of the Book of Esther, although the possibility of such a connection cannot be excluded (e.g. two men in the second landscape could be the king's messengers and the man sitting under the tree in the fourth landscape could be Mordecai).
The scrolls with landscapes are lavishly decorated megillot produced in a mixed technique in which the decorative border is printed (as a copper engraving, though in some examples, colored by hand), while the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther is penned by a scribe. The scrolls decorated with this pattern begin with a panel composed of several figurative scenes from the Book of Esther narrative. The text columns are separated by herms decorated with reliefs, elaborate acanthus leaves, and garlands above which are either decorative capitals or putti holding baskets with flowers on their heads. The lower margins are filled with the figurative scenes that chronicle the Purim story, sometimes alluding to midrashim or other sources; they are punctuated by vases with plants.
The scroll is mounted on a wooden turned roller.
There are two variants of the scrolls decorated with this pattern that in the Index are marked "I" and "II". In some exemplars, just below the decorative columns, the pedestals with angel's heads and bases were added, therefore, the text panels in these scrolls are higher; this type is marked with "II". Whereas, the rest of the manuscripts containing no pedestals with angel's heads and bases are marked with "I". The latter are more numerous.
The earliest scroll sharing a similar engraved pattern is dated to 1701; this is the megillah BCM 25 from the Braginsky Collection in Zurich (see http://braginskycollection.com/esther-scrolls/; accessed on 22.04.2020).
Similar narrative scenes are included in the scrolls with "portrait medallions" (see in the Index); some of them are their mirror image.
L | Landscape
C | Columns
A | Acanthus Leaf
G | Garland
P | Putto (Putti in Plural)
B | Basket | Basket with flowers
V | Vase
H | Herm(a)
O | Ornamentation: | Main text framed
In general, the scroll (the text, the decorations, and parchment) is preserved in very good condition.
The opening, blank, section of the scroll is torn.
The Book of Esther in Hebrew preceded with the benedictions recited before the Megillah reading
The scroll is formed of 4 sheets containing a total of 16 columns of text with 24 or 27 lines each, except for col. 14 with 11 lines divided into two half-columns. Additionally, initial benedictions are written within the opening decoration.
Every sheet contains 4 columns of text.
The text is inscribed in the Hebrew square script in brown ink on the flesh side of parchment membranes.
The letters ח (Es. 1:6) and ת (Es. 9:29) are highlighted by their size. Other enlarged and diminished letters are included in col. 14.
The initial word of the Megillah is enlarged and bolded.
The ruling is made with a hardpoint and is slightly visible.
The sheets in the scroll are stitched together.
The benedictions open with enlarged and bolded words ברוך written separately in the lines. The formulas are inscribed in the square script. Two of them include the ligature of א and ל letters.
A short description in Spanish and images of the manuscript are available on http://ceres.mcu.es/pages (accessed on 18.10.2020).
Other scrolls sharing the same or similar pattern are discussed for example in:
Jiřina Šedinová, From the Mss. Collections of the State Jewish Museum in Prague. The Scrolls of Esther, „Judaica Bohemiae” 1979, nr 15/2, 79-80.
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, 1:163-176, 2:41-49.
A Journey through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books, eds. Evelyn M. Cohen, Emile Schrijver, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Amsterdam 2009, 234-237.
Schöne Seiten. Jüdische Schriftkultur aus der Braginsky Collection, eds. Emile Schrijver, Falk Wiesemann, Evelyn M. Cohen, Sharon Liberman Mintz, Menahem Schmeltzer, Zurich 2011, 282-283.
Victor Klagsbald, Catalogue raisonné de la collection juive du Musée de Cluny, Paris 1981, 63-64, object 72.
Falk Wiesemann, Codex hebraicus 159, [in:] Irina Wandrey ed., Manuscript Cultures, vol. 6, 257-259.