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Braginsky Collection of Rare Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts Premieres at Israel Museum
Bouton Haggadah, France, second half of 19th century. The Braginsky Collection. Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama.
JERUSALEM.- The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, will present one of the most important private collections of illuminated Hebrew manuscripts and printed books in the exhibition A Journey through Jewish Worlds: Highlights from the Braginsky Collection of Hebrew Manuscripts and Printed Books, on view from December 1, 2010, through April 30, 2011. The exhibition marks the first opportunity for Israeli audiences to experience examples from the notable library of Swiss collector René Braginsky, which includes objects ranging from a 6th-7th century Shema Yisrael (Hear O Israel) amulet to a rare early 20th century Samaritan Ketubbah (marriage contract) from Schechem. The collection comes to Israel following an international tour, which included Amsterdam and New York. Its presentation at the Israel Museum will be complemented by related objects from the Museum’s own Jewish Art and Life holdings, providing insight into a vibrant and artistic Jewish culture around the world.

“The Braginsky Collection highlights the artistic merits of the illuminated Hebrew manuscript, throughout its history and in parallel with its literary significance to the Jewish people,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Museum. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to present these extraordinary works together with objects from our own collections, bringing to life the rich heritage of the world Jewish community throughout the ages.”

Collector Rene Braginsky states, “I am pleased that the tour of my collection brings it now to Jerusalem—in a sense, its spiritual home—and that it will be seen in the rich context of the Israel Museum’s own holdings of important Jewish manuscripts. This is also a rare opportunity for a new generation of Israelis to enjoy this legacy of the traditions of European Jewry.”

A Journey through Jewish Worlds features 120 works spanning more than 2,000 years from Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain, and the Land of Israel. The exhibition will also broaden the audience’s knowledge of important Jewish artists, scribes, and illuminators, many of whom are unknown in the public sphere.

Among the highlights on view are:

• A Shema Yisrael traveler's amulet, dating from the 6th – 7th century CE, inscribed with an early and unusual combination of biblical verses. It is presented alongside two singularly important items from the Israel Museum collection: a passage from the book of Isaiah from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which dates to the first century BCE and is among the oldest known Biblical texts; and a page from the Aleppo Codex, the earliest known Biblical Hebrew manuscript, from the Middle Ages. The amulet offers important rare testimony to the existence of Hebrew Biblical text during the “silent” period between the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the oldest surviving Medieval manuscripts.

• Several late 19th-century works connected to the Rothschild Family, including an especially fine Haggadah illustrated by Charlotte von Rothschild in Vienna in 1842, under the guidance of the German-Jewish artist Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, and intended as a gift to her uncle, Amschel Mayer Rothschild.

• One of the most unusual manuscripts of the late 19th century—the Bouton Haggadah, copied and decorated by the artist Victor Bouton in France. Every page is illuminated with geometric designs in blue and gold, closely emulating works from a school of 16th-century Persian manuscript illumination.

• An extremely rare ketubbah from Gibraltar (1830-1840) that depicts a symbolic marriage between the People of Israel and God, created for Shavuot (The Festival of Weeks).

• A 16th-century Italian Esther Scroll, unusual because it was illuminated by a female scribe.

The Israel Museum | Jerusalem | The Braginsky Collection | James S. Snyder |


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