Archive for June 18th, 2013


Jewish Ceremonial Art – The Soul of a People

Art reveals the soul of a people, ceremonial art is a reflection of their longings at any given time. Jewish ceremonial art is an expression of the connection between the people and the Almighty who chose them as His patrimony.

This coming Thursday, the 20th of June Kestenbaum & Company (242 West 30th Street; New York, NY 10001 – Tel: 212.366.1197 – Fax: 212.366.1368) is auctioning off 257 Ceremonial Objects and Works of Art. The auction will start at 3:00 pm precisely.

Leafing through the auction’s catalog I found many lots that were of interest to me because of their beauty, antiquity, memories of similar objects or combinations of all or any of the three.

For many decades now, I've been using a similar becher that originally belonged to my great grandfather, in Poland, given to me at my Bar Mitzvah by an aunt that moved to Uruguay in 1928.

For many decades now, I’ve been using a similar becher that originally belonged to my great grandfather, in Poland, given to me at my Bar Mitzvah by an aunt that moved to Uruguay in 1928.

Pair of Rare Safed Silver Beakers. Exquisitely engraved in typical Safed Fashion with Holy Land sights. Polish Marks. Height 1.75 inches.

19th Century. $2500-3500

Two German spice towers flanking an Austrian spice container

Two German spice towers flanking an Austrian spice container, used for havdala

(left) Tall German Silver Filigree Spice Tower. Four graduating rectangular tiers with filigree ball and flag final in the form of a deer. Matching filigree base set on ball and claw feet. Single bell on belfry and belfry section and circled at base by 4 pennants. Hinged door. 13.5 inches.

18th Century. $16,000-$18,000

A very fine and complete example of a classic form.


(center) Austrian Silver Guilt Spice Container. Pear shaped container, floral and foliate patterning throughout. Flowering stalk, attendant peacok. Set on leafy base. Height 5 inches.

19th Century. $6,000-$8,000


(right) German Silver Spice Tower. Two graduating hexagonal tiers, chased and pierced. Upper section with arched windows revealing three Jewish figures (one restored) holding candle, prayer-book and goblet. Six orbits at steeple and flag finial. Set on figural stem and circular base. Hinged door. Master. Julius Meineke. Height 10.25 inches.

Halberstadt 1725. $30,000-$40,000

Ceremonial art also shows up on parchment, vellum or paper (and there are some wonderful examples of each among the items to be auctioned), as in this megillah

A beautiful Megiilath Esther

A beautiful Megilath Esther

Megilath Esther. Complete Esther Scroll ENTIRELY ENGRAVED on vellum.

Composed on two membranes in eleven columns, with additional introductory column entitled: “Megilath Esther in Zichron Todah.” Columns of text within floriated borders; introductory column with depictions of the characters that populate the Purim story. Composed by Tueringer the Scribe and dedicated to David Loewe Elkin. Housed in contemporary metal tube. Signature at end. 5.5 by 33.5 inches.

Cologne, Cologne 1843. $10,000-$15,000


Few engraved Esther Scrolls exist. The Hungarian artist, Mordechai Donath created one in Nitra prior to the current Cologne example.

Another rare item…

Not much is left from Jewish Estonia...

Not much is left from Jewish Estonia…

Unique Estonian Silver Torah Shield. Finely engraved throughout with elaborate fruit, foliate and shell forms; central Decalogue flanked by Moses and Aron. Master. Carl Daniel Bauer, marked. 7.5×6.5 inches.


This rare Torah shield is fully hallmarked with the initials of Master Carl Daniel Bauer, from the city of Reval, 1798-1815 and with the “83” standard and city mark. The shield is also dated in Hebrew 1823.

Reval, present day Tallin, capital of Estonia and formerly part of Russia – had just a bare handful of Jews living there at the time this Torah shield was produced. Very few items of Judaica emanate from Estonia.

It’s hard to decide what to discuss in this short post, there are many items used at every occasion of the Jewish life cycle, but there are also works of art in this auction; art works which stand on their own merit as a captivated moment of daily life, its pleasures, its travails…

There a quite a paintings, portraits and slices of daily life.

There a quite a paintings, portraits and slices of daily life.

Koloszvary, Laijos. The Chess Players. Oil on canvass. Signed lower left. Framed. 18.5×39.5 inches

Hungarian (1875-1937). $10,000-$12,000

With items estimated from as low as $100 there is enough in this auction for everyone to walk away with a piece of history, a piece of Jewish art; from joyous events to those items commemorating our darkest moments, you’ll find here the laughter and the tears of the collective Jewish soul.


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