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Original Manuscript of the Jerusalem Haggadah, Design and Illumination by Yael Hershberg, Calligraphy by Izzy Pludwinski, [Jerusalem: 1996]
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Original Manuscript of the Jerusalem Haggadah, Design and Illumination by Yael Hershberg, Calligraphy by Izzy Pludwinski, [Jerusalem: 1996]
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Original Manuscript of the Jerusalem Haggadah, Design and Illumination by Yael Hershberg, Calligraphy by Izzy Pludwinski, [Jerusalem: 1996]
2 volumes:

Vol. 1: 35 folios (15 1/2 x 12 1/8 in.; 393 x 310 mm) on deckled-edge handmade paper; unfoliated (companion volume assigns page numbers as “folio X” [cited]); written in beautiful square (text body) and semi-cursive (rubrics) calligraphy in black ink; ruled lightly in pencil; complete vocalization of liturgical text (excluding rubrics, hineni mukhan u-mezumman formulas, and most of the Song of Songs) throughout. Sixty-two pages with magnificent, vibrantly watercolored decorations (scenes of human beings, architectural elements, flora, and fauna, particularly lions) and illuminations in gold leaf; two pages with stunning micrographic designs (lion on a pedestal and David’s Citadel); folios 23-24 and 49-50 feature delicate papercuts; numerous illuminated initials and initial words; enlarged incipits; rubrication used often to highlight incipits and other special texts; rubrics generally written in turquoise ink in smaller script. Some pages slightly warped or creased; small, episodic stains. Full brown goatskin binding with leather onlays in the form of pyramids, blind tooling, and gilt star motifs, handmade by artistic bookbinder Yehuda Miklaf, Jerusalem; light wear to binding. Housed in original brown half leather folding case, slightly scuffed; Hebrew title lettered in gold on spine.

Vol. 2: 76 (text), lx (plates) = 136 pages (15 3/4 x 12 1/2 in.; 400 x 320 mm) on paper; companion volume to the limited facsimile edition published in 1997 by Aryeh Editions, with supplementary material including an introduction and commentary by Marc Michael Epstein, notes by the artist, and black-and-white photographs by Oded Antman meant to illustrate the architectural inspiration for Hershberg’s work. Full, blind-tooled brown leather binding, handbound by Legatoria Recalcati, Milan; light wear to binding. Housed in original brown half leather folding case, slightly scuffed; English title lettered in gold on spine.


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“Among the most beautifully rendered, painterly, and graceful illustrated haggadot of this era.”

Tasked by Arnie and Nechami Druck with creating a manuscript Haggadah that would combine redemptive imagery with a celebration of Jerusalem on the 3,000th anniversary of its establishment by King David as the capital of his kingdom, acclaimed Jerusalem-based artist Yael Hershberg set about studying the architectural landscape and flora of the modern city, as well as its significance in traditional Jewish thought through the ages. In her completed masterpiece, The Jerusalem Haggadah, Hershberg has fulfilled her commission by artistically reproducing various iconic gates, doorways, thresholds, and windows – all conceived as symbols of freedom – in contemporary Jerusalem. According to Jewish art historian and illuminated Haggadah scholar Marc Michael Epstein in his perceptive introduction to the volume, “These openings invite us in, enclose us within a framework of themes which develop into the metahistorical idea of redemption and the idea of Jerusalem, rather than attempting to illustrate the ‘history of the Exodus.’” In illuminations and illustrations at turns traditional and innovative, the artist exposes the layered meanings of Yerushalayim shel ma‘lah (the Heavenly Jerusalem) in its complex relationship with Yerushalayim shel mattah (the Terrestrial Jerusalem).

Aside from the portal imagery employed throughout, several other elements give elegant expression to the work’s Jerusalem theme: a depiction of the city set in the center of a map of the Land of Israel with scenes taken from the Exodus from Egypt and the entry into the Land (folio 9); an image of a lion (symbolic of the tribe of Judah) on a pedestal made up of micrographic text that includes place names, phrases, and biblical verses associated with Jerusalem (folio 35); a landscape of the future, redeemed Jerusalem, accompanied by the text Le-shanah ha-ba’ah bi-yerushalayim (Next year in Jerusalem!), painted in gouache by Israel Hershberg, the illuminator’s husband (folio 60); and a micrographic silhouette of David’s Citadel, composed of verses relating events in the life of King David, including his conquest of Jerusalem and establishment of the city as his capital (folio 61). The Haggadah, whose text was copied in the beautiful Hebrew calligraphic hand of Izzy Pludwinski, closes with the Song of Songs, the ancient Jewish love poem set in Jerusalem that is read, according to some customs, at the end of the Seder.

In the end, what emerges most from this manuscript is the artist’s profound love for, and identification with, the city. To quote Epstein again: “The deepness of her attachment to this place – to the echoes of its history and the meaning in its every stone and plant – are what makes the recounting of the Exodus from Egypt come more alive in this work than it has in any Haggadah produced in modern times.”

The lot is accompanied by a companion volume, part of the facsimile edition published by Aryeh Editions in 1997, that includes an introduction and comprehensive commentary by Epstein, as well as notes by the artist and a 60-page section of plates reproducing in miniature Hershberg’s architectural motifs together with black-and-white photographs taken by Oded Antman of the real-life scenes that inspired them.

Literature

Marc Michael Epstein, “The Jerusalem Haggadah and Its New Gates to an Ancient City: A Postmodern Traditionalist Woman Reads Jerusalem Architecture,” lecture delivered at the Fifth International Seminar on Jewish Art: The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art (June 16-21, 1996).

Susan Vick with Marc Michael Epstein, “Illuminating the Present: Contemporary Jewish Illumination,” in Marc Michael Epstein (ed.), Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015), 229-253, at pp. 234, 236.

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