Ink and gouache on parchment (36 by 22 in.; 915 by 560 mm)
Ketubbah: Jewish Marriage Contracts in the Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum and Klau Library, Shalom Sabar. Philadelphia: 1990, pp. 108-111
Judaica at the Smithsonian: Cultural Politics as Cultural Model, Grace Cohen Grossman with Richard Eighme Ahlborn, Washington, D.C. 1997, pp.134-135
Recording the Marriage of Solomon, son of Jacob Visino and Dina (Gracia) daughter of Samuel Cordovero on Sunday, 14 Tishrei 5479 (October 9, 1718).
This magnificent Ketubbah documents the union of two distinguished families in the central Italian port city of Livorno.
Near the end of the sixteenth century, the ruling Medicis, endeavored to transform Livorno, a small unimportant village in central Italy into a major port. It was Ferdinand I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who in 1593 invited foreign merchants and especially Jews, including Marranos from Spain, to settle in Livorno, outlining the rights and privileges that they could hope to enjoy. The subsequent charter included amnesty for offenses committed previously, freedom from debts incurred elsewhere, the right to conduct business, including foreign trade with protection from any extraordinary levies. Additionally, the Jewish community of Livorno was granted considerable powers of self-government and was given the right to build and maintain a synagogue and a cemetery and to observe Jewish holidays. Jews would be permitted to obtain an education and Jewish doctors were to be allowed to practice without restriction. They could now own real estate and heads of Jewish households had the same right as other Tuscans to bear arms. Finally, the Jews of Livorno were exempted from any requirement to wear identifying badges or clothing. The promulgation of this edict lead directly to the development of the city as a major Italian port and as an important center of Italian Jewish life through several centuries.
The text of the ketubbah, framed within a monumental arch, is divided into two columns. On the right, the text of the Ketubbah proper is inscribed in square Hebrew letters. At left, the Tenaim (special conditions) are penned in a cursive script. Centered above the text in a richly decorated upper panel, encircled by the symbols of the zodiac, is a biblical scene depicting King Solomon receiving the Queen of Sheba. As was the custom, in ketubbot produced in Italy at this time, the artists would ornament the text with biblical figures whose names were associated with the name of the groom or the bride. In this instance the choice of scene reflects the name of the groom, Solomon. The zodiac, another popular motif in Italian ketubbot, functioned as a visual expression of the good wishes extended to the couple; that they be blessed by the heavens, and the hope that their wedding, and subsequently their marriage, may be under a “good sign,” the literal translation of the Hebrew “Mazal Tov.”
At the very top of the ketubbah, two joyous putti sit amidst swirling ribbons on an elaborate rococo frame. They support a cartouche with the coat of arms depicting a rampant lion beside a verdant tree, apparently the crest of the Visino family.
A highly similar Ketubbah produced in Livorno within several months of the present document and perhaps illustrated by the same artist is published in Ketubbot Italiane, Milan, 1984, pp.70-71, #12.
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