The following description was prepared by William Gross:
Breastplates – ornamental metal plates or shields hung in front of the Torah scroll – are found in all Ashkenazi communities, as well as Italy and Turkey, but designed differently in each community. In most cases the breastplate is made of silver or silver-plated metal. In Italy the breastplate is shaped like a half-coronet and known as the Chatzi-keter, "half-crown." In Turkey, the breastplate is called a Tas, and assumes a variety of shapes – circular, triangular, oval, or even the Star of David. In Western, Central, and Eastern Europe the breastplate is called either Tas or Tziz; its function there is not merely ornamental: it designates which Torah scroll is to be used for the Torah reading on any particular occasion, with interchangeable plaques.
The most notable early breastplates, from 17th-century Germany and Holland, were either square or rectangular, but over time they became rounded and decorative, and bells or small dedicatory plaques were suspended from its lower edge. During this period, the design of breastplates was influenced by that of the Torah Ark and the parokhet (curtain) concealing it, featuring various architectural motifs, the menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), Moses and Aaron, lions, or Torah crowns.
There is probably more Jewish ritual silver bearing the marks of the city of Vienna than from any other center of silverwork anywhere. Just as an example, there are nearly 1,200 pieces of such silver in the collection of the Prague Jewish Museum alone. There are additional substantial quantities in both the Vienna Jewish Museum and the Budapest Jewish Museum as well. The Jewish Museum of New York and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem also contain many examples. The vast majority of these objects date from the last half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
Alt-Wien Jewish ritual Viennese silver (prior to 1866) is much rarer than these later pieces and the few examples from the last decade of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th are relatively far and few between, the rarest of such objects. Within that small group, no insignificant portion is the work of one man, and those examples are the finest and most monumental of Viennese Jewish silver of the time. The name of that extraordinary artisan is Franz Lorenz Turinsky,
Franz Lorenz Turinsky was one of the leading silversmiths in the city of Vienna in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in about 1757, he became a master and guild member in 1789. He was a very prolific artisan and active for the next twenty-five years. He died in 1829.
In the Gross Family Collection are two items from his hand: a pair of elegant Rimmonim (050.001.016) and this spectacular tas. Since they are from the same year, 1806, it is reasonable to assume that they were made for the same synagogue dedication and were developed as an ensemble. The presence of both the Rimmonim and Tas in one collection makes this one of the most valuable and rare sets of Torah Ornaments existing.
Inscription: Abbreviations for the Ten Commandments on the Tablets of the Law Crown: Luza Hai Shields: This belongs to the respected gentleman David Abaniye and his wife the respected woman Mrs. Zelda, may she flourish?