Hag Pesah Sameiah again
Even we are now after Passover Seder Night, I decided to continue the Haggadot presentations. The motivation is very simple. The majority of people know very little about those wonderful documents.
In the previous post we had a little glimpse of the oldest Sephardic Haggadot illuminated manuscripts. Not to forget The Rylands Haggadah.
The Rylands Haggadah is one of the finest Haggadot in the world. It was written and illuminated in Catalonia in the 14th century and is an example of the cross-fertilisation between Jewish and non-Jewish artists within the medium of manuscript illumination. Formerly in the possession of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres (London), is now one of the treasures of the John Rylands University Library. In spring and summer 2012 it was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in the exhibition ‘The Rylands Haggadah: Medieval Jewish Art in Context’.
The second category of manuscript The Ashkenazi Haggadot are from Germany and France, and we have a third category to, Italian Haggadot.
The Ashkenazi Haggadot, from Germany and France, contain contextual illustrations, and the most famous are :
The Birds’ Head Hagagdah (Franconia, Southern Germany, ca. 1300), which is oldest surviving Ashkenazi Illuminated manuscript, now in the collection of The Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Scribe: Menahem. Handwritten on parchment; dark brown ink and tempera; square Ashkenazic script.
The name of this early Passover Haggadah derives from the birdlike human figures illustrated in the manuscript’s margins and is the first illustrated Haggadah known to be produced as an entity separate from the prayer book.
The enigmatic practice of drawing bird and animal heads in place of human faces is found in other Ashkenazi manuscripts of the 13th and 14th centuries and has been interpreted in various ways. One can be the biblical prohibition against creating graven images.
In the Birds’ Head Haggadah, (discovered by Jewish art historian Bezalel Narkiss in 1946), the realistic human figure is avoided by providing it with the head and beak of a bird, but also by distorting or hiding it — with helmets, bulbous noses, and blank faces.
It contains depictions with ritual and textual themes: the preparation of matzah and the various blessings over wine and food recited during the Seder; biblical scenes like the gathering of the manna or the giving of the Torah; and messianic images such as the rebuilt Jerusalem.
The Darmstadt Haggadah (15th century). The 15th-century Darmstadt Haggadah was written by the scribe Israel ben Meir of Heidelberg (whose name appears in a colophon), but it is not known whether he was the illustrator as well; scholars have theorized that the illuminations may be the work of several hands, perhaps even by Christian artists.
The Darmstadt Haggadah is a magnificently executed work depicting fashionably dressed men and women, in various positions and in fanciful architectural settings, raising their cups of wine or reading with expressive gestures of speech.
The pointed arches and vaulted ceilings are characteristic of Gothic architecture, and the clothing represents contemporary dress. The modest necklines and covered heads of most figures (male and female) have no religious-Jewish basis, as similar figures may be found in non-Jewish manuscripts. Darmstadt University Library.
The Sassoon Haggadah – Spain or Southern France.
Unidentified scribe. Handwritten on parchment; brown ink, tempera, gold and silver leaf; square and semi-cursive Sephardic script and later semi-cursive Provençal and Ashkenazic script. H: 21; W: 16.5 cm. Purchased by the State of Israel through an anonymous donor, London.
This important 14th-century Haggadah testifies to the religious and artistic traditions of Sephardic Jews before the expulsion from Spain. Most of its pages are colourfully embellished with illustrations of the text and the holiday’s rituals, along with an imaginative range of grotesque, hybrid creatures, and animals.
The Yahuda Haggadah. Franconia, Southern Germany. Unidentified scribe.
Handwritten on parchment; brown ink and gold and silver leaf; square Ashkenazic script. H: 23.1; W: 16.5 cm. Now in the collection of The Israel Museum in Jerusalem
This Haggadah is illustrated throughout with depictions of Passover rites and biblical episodes related to the Exodus as well as to the lives of Moses, the Patriarchs, and other figures. The same artist, whose identity has not yet been discovered, decorated another similar Haggadah, and both are filled with outstanding illustrations.
The third category of Haggadah manuscripts are Italian Haggadot, and include the Pesaro Siddur (Pesaro, Italy, 1481), and also the famous Washington Haggadah (1478) that is believed to have been produced by Joel ben Simeon in Germany. Active in both his native Germany and in northern and central Italy – especially in Florence – Joel ben Simeon had a profound influence on the illustration of Hebrew manuscripts. Unlike other scribes and artists, he signed most of his work, and we are able to identify more than a dozen manuscripts he created.
Pesaro Siddur (Pesaro, Italy, 1481).
This Italian Renaissance chef-d’oeuvre, is a two volumes prayer book ( Mahzor ) of Roman rite, completed in 1481 in the Central Italian town of Pesaro. The contents of the two volumes complement each other. The name of the scribe (Abraham) is identical in both, but the script is different, thus they were possibly two persons of the same name. The decoration generally similar also shows unique features for each volumes.
The prayer book was purchased by David Kaufmann from the Triesti brothers on February 28, 1896 and can be presented only through the microfilm made of its illustrations, because this manuscript, together with a number of other Hebrew incunabula, manuscripts and Genizah fragments, was stolen in 1980 from Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Oriental Collection
The Kaufmann Collection consists of 594 manuscript items and 1,092 printed books. And is one of the fifteen largest and foremost collections of its kind in the world. The manuscript collection contains Biblical texts with commentaries, linguistic and massoretic texts, halakhic and aggadistic pieces, works on Talmudic methodology, kabbalistic writings, works in the fields of theology, philosophy and religious polemics, history, homiletics and poetry, in addition to prayerbooks, works on the local history of Italian towns and communities, samples of letters, and works on mathematics and medicine.
The Washington Haggadah (הגדת וושינגטון) is a Hebrew-language Haggadah created in 1478 by Joel ben Simeon, called Feibush Ashkenazi of Bonn, the most productive scribe and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts in the fifteenth century. It was given to the United States Library of Congress in 1916 by Ephraim Deinard as part of the Third Deinard Collection. Originally referred to as Hebraic Manuscript, it has since been referred to as the Washington Haggadah in honour of the city.
Though not elaborately illustrated as many other Illuminated Haggadot, the beauty of its calligraphy, which is never subordinated to the illustrations, the proportions of the page, and the vividness of the illumination, which has come down in unusally fine condition, make this one of the most admired of Hebrew manuscripts.
First Nuremberg Haggadah – Southern Germany.
Scribe and illustrator: Joel ben Simeon. This Haggadah, copied for Nathan ben Solomon, is thought to be the first and therefore represents his style while still a young man.
Handwritten on parchment; ink and watercolor; square and semi-cursive Ashkenazic script.
Gift of Erica Jesselson and the Jesselson family, to American Friends of the Israel Museum, in honor of Teddy Kollek’s 90th birthday