S otheby’s is pleased to continue our long association with the Sassoon family in presenting SASSOON: A Golden Legacy, a further group of rare and important Judaica from the family collection of the fabled “Rothschilds of the East.” The silver pieces, manuscripts, and textiles that feature here were assembled over the course of more than a century, and range geographically from Western Europe to the Far East and chronologically from the eleventh to the twentieth centuries. We have endeavored in the present catalogue to pay tribute to the Sassoon family’s many years of dedication to the patronage and preservation of Jewish scholarship, art, and material culture of the highest caliber.
Some of the items were commissioned for members of the family on various celebratory occasions; others were added to the collection by those with a discerning eye and refined taste, including Reuben David, Flora, David Solomon, and Solomon David Sassoon. The first was astute enough to acquire an important part of the holdings of Philip Salomons, the earliest English collector of antique Judaica (lots 19-25). To this he added historic and beautiful items from Jewish centers across Europe, including the two sensational Torah Shields that can now be attributed to Elimelekh Tzoref of Stanislav (lots 26 and 27), the exceptionally rare circumcision flask inscribed Emden, 1622 (lot 28), and the luxurious Italian Esther Scroll with scenes from the story embossed into its solid gold body (lot 30). Turning to the patronage of Flora and Solomon Sassoon, particularly noteworthy is the sequence of lots (36-40) highlighting the Sassoons’ close relationship with the great Rabbi Joseph Hayyim, preeminent spiritual leader of Baghdadi Jewry. Among the books, the bulk of which were assembled by David Solomon Sassoon, attention should be drawn to the series of rare Yemenite manuscripts (lots 49-54, 56), two of them decorated, as well as to the miniature Torah scroll with silver-gilt ornaments (lot 63), one of the tiniest offered for sale. In the pages that follow, these and more Sassoon treasures are organized roughly according to their provenance, with each section introduced by a brief profile of the relevant family members.
The bond between the Sassoons and Sotheby’s is both long and deep. Not only were numerous items in the collection originally acquired at Sotheby’s auctions in London starting as early as the first decade of the twentieth century, but, since 1970, the family has partnered with Sotheby’s to offer their Judaica and books in a series of high-profile sales held in London, Zurich, New York, and Tel Aviv. The distinguished pedigree, superior quality, and historical importance of these items have attracted not just collectors but educational and cultural institutions from across North America, Europe, and Israel.
With SASSOON: A Golden Legacy, Sotheby’s is delighted to once again be honoring the tradition of Judaica connoisseurship cultivated over the generations by members of this legendary family.