An elaborate embroidered Sabbath tablecloth, Jerusalem, 1821
embroidered multicolored silk thread on linen.
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53 1/2 by 52 1/2 in.
135.9 by 139.5 cm
This colorful Sabbath tablecloth embroidered with images of the holy sites of Israel is one of an exceptional group of decorative textiles created in the Holy Land in the nineteenth century. In the central panel, the artist has featured an idealized vision of the sacred sites of the Temple Mount; the Midrash Shlomo (Solomon’s school) Bet Ha-Mikdash (The Temple) and the Kotel ha-Maaravi (the Western Wall). Surrounding the central panel are ten pavilions each denoting a tomb of one of the famous men or sages of Israel. In addition, the well of Miriam is also depicted and a fanciful chained lion represents the tomb of Rabbi Solomon Luria (known by his acronym as Ha-Ari = the Lion). In the outside corners are depictions of the tombs of Rachel, Samuel, Hulda the prophetess and the Kings of the House of David. Several prayers recited on Friday evening at the start of the Sabbath meal, (including Shalom Aleichem) are decoratively inscribed in concentric circles.
Scholarly research has identified a total of only nine clothes created in this style; these include seven highly similar tablecloths:
1. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. First half of the nineteenth century (161/58)
2. The Jewish Museum, London. First half of the nineteenth century (no. 366)
3. The Jewish Museum, New York. First half of the nineteenth century (F1789)
4. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Dated 1850 (755-1900)
5. The Wolfson Museum Heichal Shlomo, Jerusalem. Dated 1906 (#2185)
6. The Wolfson Museum Heichal Shlomo, Jerusalem. Early twentieth century (#257)
7. The Jewish Museum of Greece, nineteenth century
and one related Torah Ark Curtain in the collection of the Jewish Museum, London (#53).
The present cloth is the only one of this group to be both signed by an artist, Nachman the son of Hillel the Yerushalmi, as well as dated, 1821. More importantly, it is both the earliest example of this genre as well as one of the earliest extant dated objects of Judaica to be created in Jerusalem in the modern period.
“A Group of Embroidered Cloths from Jerusalem” in the Journal of Jewish Art, vol. 2, 1973, pp. 28-41
R. D. Barnett, ed., Catalogue of the Jewish Museum, 1974, pp. 71-72
Michael E. Keen, Jewish Ritual Art: in the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1991, p. 65