Archive for the 'ceremonial art' Category


Jewish Ceremonial Art – The Soul of a People: Part 2

In many an auction there have often been unexpected surprises, such as an item that was estimated as a high seller failing to reach even the lowest threshold of its estimated value or an item selling for an amount far above the expected. Last Thursday’s auction, at Kestenbaum and Company, was no exception. While some lots may not have sold at the expected price, others indeed went for higher sums.

Kestenb12Just as art reveals the artist’s soul, and ceremonial art reveals the soul of a people, how and why later generations value that art speaks volumes of that particular people’s past. Last Thursday, quite a few items exceeded their estimates but two of them – in particular – demonstrate to me what we, as Jews, still treasure today.

UKRANIAN/POLISH SILVER SPICE TOWER. Single tier tower, engraved on four sides with animals representing the adage from Ethics of the Fathers: Bold as a Leopard, Swift as an Eagle, Fleet as a Deer, Strong as a Lion (Chapter 5:23). Set on knop stem and matching square base. Marked. Height: 7 inches.

Circa 1820: $6,000-$8,000

The above item sold for $15,000. Frankly, from a strictly artistic point of view, there were more beautiful, more intricately designed spice towers for havdala, even in this very auction; the particular lot, however, stood out for its inscriptions telling a Jew that he must IsiKaufwdalways be ready to act with alacrity, and defy every obstacle on his way to perform any one of Hakodosh Boruch Hu‘s commandments. While the esthetics of an item are important, its message and its function are – obviously – of greater value to us as a people…  even in the 21st century!

The second item I find worthy of mentioning is a mixed media work…

(Kaufman, Isidor. After). Studying the Talmud. Wood and mixed media (intarsia-style). Framed. 23.5 x 19.5 inches

Mid 20 century: $100-$150

Based on the Isidor Kaufman painting ‘Studying the Talmud’

The above item sold for $1500, ten times the highest estimated amount! Why? Because not only do we Jews value tradition, not only do we value books, we treasure learning and scholarship. Again the personal values of the buyer far outshine the artistic value of the work.

Attending this auction of Jewish Ceremonial Art showed me an important part of our character as a people. It reinforced the knowledge that no matter how far down the rungs of spiritual height our generation has descended, no matter how jaded we’ve become in the surroundings of the present day world, the values and beliefs our ancestors held are still engraved in our hearts. The flames of yahadut are indeed eternal and will forever warm our collective soul.



Jewish Ceremonial Art – The Soul of a People


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.



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.


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.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,771 other subscribers

Calendar of Posts

February 2023


Visit our friends at the Kosher Wine Society

Category Cloud

18 Restaurant Abigael's baking baking recipes BlogTalkRadio cheese Chef David Kolotkin Chef Jeff Nathan Chef Lévana Chef Lévana Kirschenbaum chicken chicken recipes cookbook authors cookbooks dairy cuisine dairy recipes Esti Berkowitz fine dining fine kosher dining fine kosher dining in Manhattan fine kosher restaurants fine restaurants fish fish recipes Geila Hocherman Internet Radio Irving Schild Jack's Gourmet Jeff Nathan Jewish history Kim Amzallag kosher kosher baking kosher baking recipe kosher baking recipes kosher beef kosher beef recipes kosher cheese kosher chefs kosher chicken dishes kosher chicken recipes kosher cookbook authors kosher cookbooks kosher cookery Kosher cooking kosher cooking classes kosher cooking demos kosher cuisine kosher dairy kosher dairy cuisine kosher dairy recipes kosher desserts kosher dining kosher dining in Brooklyn kosher dining in Manhattan kosher dining in NY kosher fine dining kosher fine wines kosher fish kosher fish recipes Kosher food kosher Italian cuisine kosher lamb recipes kosher meat dishes kosher meat recipes kosher meat restaurants kosher meat restaurants in Manhattan kosher Mediterranean cuisine kosher parve recipes kosher poultry dishes kosher poultry recipes kosher recipes kosher restaurant review Kosher restaurants kosher restaurants in Brooklyn kosher restaurants in Manhattan kosher restaurants in New York City kosher restaurants in NY Kosher Revolution Kosher Scene kosher soup recipes kosher wine kosher wines Lévana Lévana Kirschenbaum meat recipes parve recipes Passover Pomegranate Supermarket poultry poultry recipes Prime Grill Royal Wine Corporation Shavuos recipes Susie Fishbein The Kosher Scene The Kosher Scene Radio Show Uncategorized Wine

%d bloggers like this: