Obj. ID: 37205 Torah shield, Turin, circa 1820
C | Curtain
M | Magen David
C | Crown
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Floral motif
T | Tablets of the Law
W | Wreath
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.
The phenomenon of Jewish ritual objects by identifiable Jewish silversmiths is quite rare in Europe. However, early 19th century Turin provided a sympathetic atmosphere for such occurrences. Pacifico Levi was one of these two or three silversmiths in Turin, nominated for membership in the Turin guild in 1817-1818. He chose as his mark a hand holding a pouring pitcher, representing his Levite origins. This is one of the extremely rare instances of a Jewish silversmith having a Jewish symbol for his silver mark, perhaps even a unique occurrence. There are other Jewish silver pieces by this master in the Turin community collection, the synagogue museum in Casale Monferrato, the temple Emanuel collection in New York, and the Italian museum collection in Jerusalem. This variety of objects includes Tasim, crowns, and large cups. The suspension device for hanging the Tas from the Atzei Chaim is a unique feature of Tasim from this area.
Inscription: Abbreviations for the Ten Commandments on the Tablets of the Law