Archive for the 'Jewish Ceremonial Art' Category

16
Dec
13

Sotheby’s Upcoming Jewish Auctions – Part 1 – Important Judaica


Sotheby’s (1334 York Avenue; NY, NY 10021; Tel:212.606.7000) is having two exhibits on subjects of Jewish interest, prior to the auctions on Tuesday, the 17th of December. There are a hundred and sixty one lots in the Important Judaica exhibit, with one hundred and forty two lots in Israeli and International Art.

Many unusual items are shown in the Important Judaica section, including paintings, ceremonial art, books and more, ranging from antiquity to the 20th century in age. Quite a number of items impressed me, following is a small sampling…

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Hamisha Humshei Torah - Printed in 1561

Hamisha Humshei Torah – Printed in 1561

The above pictured item, Lot 136, includes the full Chumash together with RaSH”I and a condensed version of Elija Mizrahi‘s Sefer Mizrahi (a supercommentary on RaSH”I), titled Kitzur Mizrahi, as authored by Jacob Marcaria in Riva di Trento. Marcaria was a physician, printer and author. He printed a small number of titles in the press of German Rabbi Yosef Ottolengo – who had been licensed to print Hebrew books by Cardinal Cristoforo Madruzzo, Bishop of Trento. Included here are the Megillot (Scrolls) with commentaries by RaSH”I and Yitzchak Arama. It was obviously meant as a synagogue volume as it also includes the haftarot for the whole year as well as commentaries to aid in understanding these additional biblical readings. It is estimated to sell for $5,000 to $7,000.

Another book I found compelling was Sefatayim Yishak, Lot 143. In this slim volume are two letters written by Rabbi Jacob Yehoshua Falk – an ally of Rabbi Yaakov Emden – and Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Amsterdam – another staunch Emden ally and his brother-in-law. The letters, directed to the Rabbinical Court in Prague, expressed great concern and opposition to the newly appointed Rabbi of the German cities of Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbeck, Rabbi Yonathan Eybeschutz. Since Rabbi Eybeschutz‘ son and brother were known as Shabtai Tzvi followers, Rabbi Emden (whose father, the Chacham Tzvi, had been involved in a bitter fight against Nechemya Ochayon, after the latter was proven to be a full fledged Sabbatean) suspected Rabbi Eybeschutz‘ of secretly being a Sabbatean (especially after the latter gave a pregnant woman an amulet he wrote). This item is estimated at $10,000 to $12,000, it was printed in Altona in 1752.

More interesting books, among others, include Robert Estienne‘s Biblia Hebraica – in eight volumes – printed during a two and half year period from 1543 to 1546 (Lot 137), estimated at $20,000 to $30,000. An unusual collection of moral fables and animal stories, Meshal Ha-Kadmoni (Lot 134), by Yitzchak Ibn Shahula (and discussed by David Wachtel during last evening’s broadcast, on our radio show), has an estimated range of $30,000 to $40,000. It has some eighty woodcut illustrations and the material is based on the Talmud and Midrashim, with kabbalistic and Indian influences.

A very unusual tome, which appeared in Catania (Sicily), is a Compendium of Medical Treatises in Judeo-Arabic and Hebrew (Lot 96). While Arab copies of some of these works are relatively common, only three other copies in Hebrew letters are known. Jews lived in Catania as early as 383 B.C and many references to this town indicate, in later centuries, the presence of of numerous Jewish physicians. It’s price is expected to come in at around $8,000 to $12,000.

This medical book appeared around 1452

This medical book appeared around 1452

Another rare treasure is the first printed edition of the Talmud Yerushalmi by Daniel Bomberg (Lot 133). It took two years to print it (1522 to 1524), and was based on Yechiel ben Yekuthiel ben Benyamin Ha-Rofe‘s work from 1289, known as the Leyden Manuscript. It is expected to sell between $20,000 to $30,000.

Oppenhaim's the Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara - painted in 1862, four years after the tragic event.

Oppenhaim’s The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara – painted in 1862, four years after the tragic event.

Among the paintings in this auction, two stand out. Moritz Daniel Oppenheim‘s The Kidnapping of Egardo Mortara (Lot 60)*, depicts a horrible event from 1858 that drew international interest and world outrage against the Pope and the Catholic Church. This barbaric, unashamedly antisemitic act, was the catalyst that brought about the Resorgimento – the unification of Italy under King Vittorio Emmanuele and the erosion of Papal power over the country in 1870). It is estimated to bring in $200,000 to $300,000. Isidor Kaufman‘s Portrait of a Young Rabbi (Lot 61), is another very powerful painting, with estimates ranging from $100,000 to $150,000.

Painted circa 1897

Painted circa 1897

The two watercolors by Georg Emanuel Opitz (Lot 62) (not a Jewish artist, though many of his works show Jews), depict rather whimsically a Jewish teacher punishing one of his students as the other kids make fun of their mentor behind his back,  as explained by Jennifer Roth last evening on our radio show. The second watercolor shows a mother trying to intercede – on behalf of her daughter and her nervous suitor – with the father to accept the match. Both watercolors are expected to go for $8,000 to 12,000.

There are also many other items ranging from Torah finials, to crowns, to breastplates, to candelabra and more. All in all, this is a superb collection of items spanning hundreds of years and into the 20th century. Truly Important Judaica!

CS

* The white colored streaks in Oppenheim’s painting above do not show damage to the canvas, they are nothing more than reflections of the light in the exhibition hall.

26
Apr
13

About Tomorrow’s Radio Show…


After a far too long hiatus (due to the final disease and subsequent ptirah of my uncle – Henry Moss, alav haShalom), we are back with a radio show special on motzey Shabbat at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time). We prerecorded it on Wednesday, at Sotheby’s, at the press intro to the exhibit of the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection.

The collection's catalog...

The collection’s catalog…

Detail of a very ornate Shabbat oil lamp, from the 18th Frankfurt Ghetto

Detail of a very ornate Shabbat oil lamp, from the 18th century Frankfurt am/Main ghetto.

We spoke with Jennifer Roth, Sotheby’s Senior Vice President and Department Head of the Judaica Department, John D. Ward, Vice President and Department Head of the Silver Department, Sharon Liberman Mintz and David Wachtel, Senior Judaica Consultants. The exhibit covers a millennium and a half of Jewish Ceremonial Art, from aquamanile to matza tools, from German Shabbat oil lamps to a British decorative silver plate given by the Jewish community to the Lord Mayor of London, to an illuminated medieval edition of MaimonidesMishnah Torah and hundreds more. Each item is unique, some are very rare, all show the extent to which the Jews appreciated art and integrated the artistic fashion of the time into their every day ceremonial needs.

The conversations with the four experts listed above were fascinating, as they opened up a new way to look at our history, at our values, and how the Jews truly fared in the European societies of old. Please listen to this fascinating show at BlogTalkRadio.com/kosherscene at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time) motzei Shabbat.

Meanwhile, in case you missed, please listen to the archive of our last show with Paula Shoyer.

Don’t forget to listen in tomorrow evening at 11:30 pm (Eastern Time), we’ll be wait’n for ya.

CS

10
Jul
12

Illustrations, Paintings and Ceremonial Art – A Judaica Auction – Part 3


No auction at Kestenbaum and Company would ever be complete without some art.

There were quite a few art items – in this auction – ranging from illustrated books, to paintings, to kiddush cups, to beautifully written, superbly decorated meguillos and more, my personal favorite among the illustrations was Isidor Kauffman‘s set of color plates of chassidic life… Lot 243:

KAUFFMAN, ISIDOR. Complete set of Sixteen large plates, reproducing the artist’s work. Introductory German text by Rabbi Dr. H. P. Chajes. Each plate individually matted.
Original decorative portfolio, light wear. Lg. Folio

Vienna, 1925 $3000-$5000

As a painter Kauffman’s work is of considerable historical value, they are documents of a time gone by, they bring us aspects of the shtetl that was, a portrait of life forever snuffed out by the Nazi hordes whether in Galitzia, Poland or the Ukraine. With a sensitive, loving eye, Kauffman sought to reproduce every nuance of the people and objects he portrayed. There is life in every face, there is movement in every shape…

While there was certainly better art at this auction, Lot 359 attracted my attention me as the facial expression and pose showed me a Rov struggling with an halachic problem, or trying to find a new insight into a hard sugya. One can almost “see” the thoughts going through the mind of the one painted…

(RABBINIC PORTRAIT). Contemplation. Oil on canvas. signed upper right (undecipherable) Framed 16 x 17 inches.

20th century. $1000-1500

Lot 379…

LARGE DUTCH BRASS CHANUKAH LAMP. Prominent drip-pan encloses cast openwork lamp, the upper-section with for elongated freurs-de-lis, large servant light attached at center over central rectangular plaque with inscription: “For the Commandment is a Lamp, the Teaching is a Light (Proverbs VI:23) 9.5 x 12 inches.

circa 1700. $15,000-18,000

A very beautiful, intricately decorated silver bound prayer book, Lot 398…

SILVER BOUND PRAYER BOOK. Hebrew Festival Prayer-book. Printed in Venice by Stamperia Bragadina in 1750.

Embossed overall with Baroque Style decoration, including swirls and foliage. Upper coverwith central vignette of the sign of the Levite; rear cover of rampant lion aside tree with crown above. Pair of clasps and hinges. Height: 7.5 inches. Kassel 1770.

$4000-5000

Jewish art, whether a painting, whether ceremonial is a document of a time, past or present, that either passed or is fast passing through. It is a silent witness to what was, what is and… what could still be.

CS

13
Jun
12

Judaica Auctions – A Conversation with Daniel Kestenbaum


Towards the end of March we wrote on these very pages about a fascinating Judaica auction, where rare and ancient sfarim, awe inspiring kitvey yad,  ceremonial art and more, were up for bids (here, here, and here). This evening, at 8:00pm (Eastern Time), we will talk to Daniel Kestenbaum – the president and founder of Kestenbaum and Company – who run that auction and has a new one coming up on June 21st.

Growing up in England, in London, Daniel developed a passion for Jewish history from a very early age on; becoming an auctioneer of fine Judaica allowed him to literally touch history. I had the pleasure of taping our conversation with him yesterday at Kestenbaum and Company‘s offices (at 242 West 30th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10001; Tel: 212.366.1197). You will hear, stories of unusual finds, stories about the Jewish intelligentsia of Tel Aviv in 1935 and more. At their offices I was surrounded by thousand year old manuscripts, books printed in the late 15th century, ceremonial art from around the world.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it or even if you want to hear it again, why not listen to our last week’s broadcast with brothers David and Zev Brooks, the creative brothers’ who brought us the funny/touching movie The Yankles - about a chassidic yeshiva’s baseball team.

Please do not forget to listen, this evening, to BlogTalkradio.com/kosherscene at at 8:00pm (Eastern Time), when we will talk to Daniel Kestenbaum of Kestenbaum and Company. It will be a very interesting, fascinating look at Jewish history and rare books. We’ll be waiting for you.

CS

29
Mar
12

A Journey Into History, Rare Judaica Auction – Part 3


In the first 2 parts of this series we wrote about seforim, kisvey yad (manuscripts) and letters. Here I’ll mention some of the ceremonial and fine arts that were also auctioned off.

The items commanding the highest prices in the Ceremonial Art category were:

On the left:

BAUHAUS-STYLE KIDDUSH GOBBLET DESIGNED BY LUDWIG WOLPERT
Finished maquette. Height 7.5″

Accompanied by: Sketched design, drawn and signed by Wolpert, dated 2/5/73.

Ludwig Wolpert (1900-81) was a Bauhaus trained craftsman and designer who later founded and directed the Toby Pascher Workshop at the Jewish Museum, New York.

It sold for $2,750.00.

At center:

TIFFANY SILVER CHANUKA MENORAH
Of classic form, marked on bottom. 19.5 by 14.5 inches

20-Century

It went for $8,000.00

On the right:

ITALIAN SILVER AMULET
Of ovalform, engraved with name of God on each side, set within shield of leafy clusters. Marked with town “Alessandria.” 4×3 inches

1824-1829

It sold for $5,000.00

The two highest selling items in the Fine Arts category were:

RABAN, ZE’EV
Printed Kethubah, surrounded by gouache borders. Signed “Ze’ev Raban, Jerusalem” in English and Hebrew. 20.5 by 13 inches.

Jerusalem, circa 1940’s

This marriage contract, written in English and Hebrew is set in traditional architectural inspired border. Raban’s kethubah design is comprided of a range oof biblical motifs. At the base is a Jerusalem cityscape, flanked by columns set on resting lions and a biblical passage. The text is bordered on each side by twelve cells depicting the twelve tribes (right) and similarly, the twelve months and corresponding zodiacal signs of the Jewish year (left).

A grapevine and pomegranate design surround a central Boblical medallion appropriately depicting Eliezer – the Bible’s first “matchmaker” alongside the young Rebbeca.

It commanded $6,000.00

A photograph by Roman Vishniac, The Scholar, sold for $3,750.00. As a child of Poilishe Holocaust survivors, as someone who met and spoke with Mr. Vishniac a”h at length, as a photographer myself, this gelatin print – signed by the artist – in a 12 by 10’5 inch format – as well as many of his other shots of a tragically wiped out world, brings me closer to my parents’ roots. The facial expressions of Vishniac’s subjects, the city or village foreground and background bring those moments, those subjects back to life, even if only for a fleeting moment… One can almost hear the street noise, see the movement, hear the subjects’ conversations, read their thoughts….

Among the many items in this auction, we found the well known classic texts and the not so so well known, controversial ones like Azariah de Rossi‘s Me’or Eynaim, lexicons, grammars and more. Alongside them you could find the first Yiddish translations of such works as Onkel Tom’s Kebin (Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Karl MarxDos Kapital - Kritik fun der Politischer Ekonomye (Das Kapital), Charles Darwin‘s Di Opshtamung fun Mentshen un der Oysklaib Beshayces tzu Geshlect (On The Origin of Species), or Baruch Spinoza‘s Di Etik (Ethics, the main work that caused Spinoza’s excommunication by the Rabbis of his community).

Not only works that had been considered infamous or quasi-infamous, in its day, were among the auctioned lots, but emotional, heart breaking, memoirs were represented as well… Mendel  Beilis‘ (the real life subject of Bernard Malamud‘s The Fixer) first edition of his Di Geschichte fun Meyne Leyden (The Story of My Sufferings), printed in 1925 with a portrait and autograph by the author. Beilis was the victim of a vicious blood libel charge that brought world condemnation of Czarist Russia’s justice system. He was acquitted on October 28th, 1913.

This auction was, for me, truly a journey into history! It afforded me a glimpse into what had been our religious, cultural and artistic life of the past, while helping me understand why in spite of all, in spite of every foe – past or present – our future as Jews is well assured!

CS




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