Beginning in the thirteenth century, kabbalists used relatively simple diagrams resembling Porphyrian trees to map the interconnected pathways between the various facets of the Godhead known as the Ten Sefirot (lit., numerals). With the advent of Lurianic Kabbalah and its far more complex theosophy in the sixteenth century, these ilanot (lit., trees) took on highly ramified forms that sought to visualize the stages of divine emanation from Ein sof (The Infinite) downward. Inscribed on long vertical scrolls known as rotuli, ilanot were often accompanied by texts and charts that supplemented or explained the graphic illustrations.
The present lot, which features highly anthropomorphic representations of the Lurianic partsufim (divine physiognomies) Adam kadmon (Primordial Man), Arikh anpin (The Long-Suffering God), and Ze‘eir anpin (The Impatient God) – complete with crowns and mustaches – was composed/copied by Nathan Note ben Moses Naphtali Hirsch Hammerschlag (1624-ca. 1694), a resident of Nikolsburg who served as scribe of the Polish Council of Four Lands and as a cantor. Several signed manuscript treatises and ilanot of his survive, dated between 1684 (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Mich. 88) and 1694 (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Mich. 139). Its unusually early provenance and fine execution make this ilan a historically significant exemplar of a special genre of kabbalistic literature.
Sotheby’s is grateful to Dr. J.H. Chajes for his assistance in identifying the scribe of this manuscript.
J.H. Chajes, “Kabbalah and the Diagrammatic Phase of the Scientific Revolution,” in Richard I. Cohen, Natalie B. Dohrmann, Adam Shear, and Elchanan Reiner (eds.), Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David B. Ruderman (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press; Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014), 109-123.
The Haifa University Ilanot Project (http://ilanot.haifa.ac.il/site/)
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