This richly-illustrated Italian marriage contract features one of the most elaborate decorative programs found on ketubbot produced in the Veneto region in the first decades of the eighteenth century. The text is enframed by colorful tendrils entwined around the signs of the zodiac, and four corner medallions feature monumental gilt words from the verse “He who finds a wife has found happiness” (Prov. 18:22). The upper section is divided into two registers. In the lower panel, flanked by birds, flowers, and vases, a knotted ribbon, painted in gold, surrounds the words “My beloved to me is a bag [or knot] of myrrh” (Song 1:13). This text has been adapted by the artist into a graphic representation of endless love via the knot motif, which has no beginning or end and is captioned “the bond of grace” (a play on Prov. 31:30). In the upper panel, the words be-simana tava u-be-mazzala ma‘alya (with a good sign and under a favorable star) are penned in gold ink, above which appears a cartouche surmounted by a crown and the verse “A capable wife is a crown for her husband” (Prov. 12:4).
Prominently featured in the cartouche at the top of the ketubbah is an image of Jonah emerging from the mouth of the whale. This coat of arms decorates many of the manuscripts and Jewish ceremonial objects created for the distinguished Morpurgo family. Since both the bride and groom in this marriage were Morpurgos (the bride married her uncle), only one family emblem was needed.
The Morpurgo nuptials took place on the eve of Passover, a popular day for weddings among Italian Jews as it allowed the families to observe the eight days of the holiday while at the same time celebrating the seven days of the sheva berakhot festivities following the marriage ceremony.
This ketubbah is a magnificent representation of the art and culture of the Jewish community of Venice in the early eighteenth century.
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