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PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

An Exquisite Parokhet (Torah Ark Curtain), Italy: 1755
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151

PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR

An Exquisite Parokhet (Torah Ark Curtain), Italy: 1755
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An Exquisite Parokhet (Torah Ark Curtain), Italy: 1755
Embroidered in a variety of stitches, including laid and floss stitch and bullion (work raised metal couch stitch) on royal blue silk ground with multicolored, bright silk threads, as well as gold and silver metallic threads (85 x 67 in.; 2160 x 1700 mm). Central grapevine motif surrounded by floral imagery and scrolling patterns; gothic Hebrew inscription in golden thread near lower edge; trimmed with antique metal hand-twisted fringe. Slight scattered staining; some losses and threadbare areas; metal disks missing from teardrop shapes in several letters of the inscription; fringe complete but loose at upper-left corner. Backed on linen outfitted with snaps and Velcro for hanging; small stain on linen at lower right.
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相關資料

In Italy in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance period, embroidery was a male art form; only in the sixteenth century did it become an important part of women’s education. From that point onward, Italian Jewish women played a more prominent role in creating embroidered textiles for use in the synagogue than did their sisters in other countries, and Roman-rite prayer books recognized their contributions with a special prayer recited during the Sabbath morning services which blesses “every daughter of Israel who makes a mantle or cover for the Torah.”

The dedicatory Hebrew inscription embroidered in the lower border of the present parokhet records that this magnificent textile was the handiwork of the young woman Simhah Viterbo in the year ha-yashar ve-ha-tov = [5]515 (1755). The curtain features an elaborate central cartouche containing clusters of grapes hanging form vines and surrounded by a lavish border of fruit and floral motifs, including pomegranates, carnations, and roses – all combined to form a dynamic and dramatic pattern. The prominently located clusters of grapes hanging on vines may allude to the biblical metaphor that the Torah is a flowering tree of life to all who grasp it (Prov. 3:18).

The parokhet, hung before the Torah Ark, serves as a partition between the Ark and the prayer hall. The Hebrew term is based on its identification with the curtain of the same name which separated the Holy section of the Tabernacle and the Temple from the Holy of Holies (Ex. 26:31-33; 40:21). According to historical sources, the curtain became a fixture in synagogues during the Middle Ages. This parokhet is an outstanding witness to the textile craft practiced by Jewish women in early modern Italy.

Literature

Jacques Charles-Gaffiot, B.P. Edgar Abravanel, et al., Le monde juif: une histoire sainte (Paris: Centre Culturel du Panthéon, 1992), 66-69.

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