Seder Keri’ath Shema al Ha-Mitah ["Prayers before Retiring at Night." A liturgical compendium with additional personal prayers and blessings]

AUCTION 62 | Thursday, June 26th, 2014 at 1:00
Fine Judaica: Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Graphic and Ceremonial Art

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Lot 150
A Miniature Manuscript on Vellum. Written, illustrated and illuminated by Jospe ben Meyer Schmalkalden of Mainz.

Seder Keri’ath Shema al Ha-Mitah ["Prayers before Retiring at Night." A liturgical compendium with additional personal prayers and blessings]

24 leaves (excluding blanks) measuring approx. 2 x 2 3/4 inches (52 x 71 mm). 18 pages containing, variously, illuminations, illustrations, etc. Hebrew in square characters, with Judeo-German instructions in wayber-taytsch letters Beautifully illuminated "In honor of my wife. I am her husband, Joseph Däern Katz" (title-page). Light discoloration and minor marginal staining, minimal abrasions in few places Bound in gilt-tooled maroon morocco, housed in a later solander-box

Germany: 1745

Est: $150,000 - $200,000
The level of draftsmanship, and specifically, the exquisite detail that the artist lavishes upon this diminutive manuscript is quite breathtaking. The subject of the illustrations within the manuscript are as follows: Title - Architectural arch flanked on pedestals by Moses the Law-Giver (right) and Aaron the High-Priest (left) within architectural niches; atop the arch, hands raised in priestly benediction, and on both sides maidens carrying a palm frond and a bough, respectively. (The latter motif was most likely incorporated from the Greco-Roman tradition). (Verso of title and f.2r. - blank). Fol. 3r. - The word Ribono ("Master") gilt. Fol. 3v. - The word Elo-heinu ("Our God") in silver lettering within red cartouche. Fol. 3v.-4r. - Text in square Hebrew characters surrounded by running commentary in rabbini characters. Fol. 5r. - Bedroom scene of a woman asleep in her canopied bed. The room is approprialy furnished and most elegant with checker-board carpet, columned panels and ornate ceiling with multiple cornices. In red, yellow, green and blue. Fol. 5v. - The gilt letters of the word Baruch ("Blessed") are situated in cartouches of midnight blue. This color scheme may betray Alsatian influence. These colors were immensely popular in Jewish designs from that region. While lurking in the shadows of the Hebrew letters beith, vav and chaph are planters, close examination of the letter reish reveals a humanoid, or perhaps angelic figure. Fol. 9r. - An angel aloft illustrates the word Ha-Malach ("The angel"). In the angel’s right hand is a palm frond; in his left, a laurel wreath. (The significance of these objects most likely comes of the Greco-Roman tradition, cf. title-page). Fol. 9v. - A monarch (with decidedly feminine features) rests on a regal canopied bed, surrounded by armored guards in evocative European costume. The accompanying Hebrew text is that from Song of Songs 3:7, “Behold the bed of Solomon, sixty mighty warriors of the mighty men of Israel surround it; all bearing swords, trained in warfare, each his sword by his side.” The artist’s use of color (a full palette of red, yellow, blue, green, etc.) and his attention to detail, whether it be the tooling of the walls or the soldiers’ uniforms, are most arresting. Fol. 11r. - A most magnificent ilustration: The subject is King David playing upon his harp, which according to Talmudic legend was a nightly occurrence (see T.B. Berachoth 3b). The pious King is wearing a crown, full beard, and royal robes, while there is perched before him the text of the Book of Psalms. What is breathtaking is the intricate detail the artist has lavished upon the gray cathedral-like surroundings, with their vaulted arches, niches and statuary. In this respect, the artist has succeeded in achieving a large measure of realism, although he has grafted a European environment onto a Biblical motif. Fol. 11v. - Each of the four silvered letters of the Hebrew word Ashrei ("Happy") is set within a floriated cartouche against a red background. Fol. 16r. - A seven-branched Menorah, as found in the Temple, illustrates the additional prayer for Chanukah, Bi-Yemei Matithyahu ("In the days of Mattathias.") Fol. 17r. - Ten dangling sons of Haman, as well as some merry revelers, illustrate the additional prayer for Purim, Bi-Yemei Mordechai ve-Esther ("In the days of Mordecai and Esther.") Fol. 17v. - A rotund and immodest Bacchus positioned over a wine casket, holding in the one hand a grape cluster, and in the other a goblet. Perhaps hardly the illustration one would have imagined to portray the Hebrew blessing Borei peri ha-gaphen ("Who creates the fruit of the vine!") However again, this is an instance where the general European cultural influence has found its way into this sophisticated Jewish prayer-compendium. Fol.19v. - A well-tended and meticulously manicured fruit orchard, under one of whose trees sits a maiden with her fruit basket, comes to illustrate the blessing over fruits, Borei peri ha-eitz ("Who creates the fruit of the tree.") Fol. 21r. - The subject of this vignette is the rainbow, for which Jewish law has prescribed the blessing Zocheir ha-berith ("Who remembers the covenant.") In the foreground is a matron wearing a bonnet and holding in her hand a prayer book open to the page of the appropriate blessing. In the background, the artist has drawn a European walled city. What is so extrardinary about this particular scene is that surreptitiously, nested in the lower lines of the young lady's open prayer-book, in the most minutest writing (seen by a strong magnifying-glass only), the artist signs his name: “Jospe Schmalkalden of Mainz.” This represents the only place in this entire manuscript where the artist's name is recorded. One wonders aloud why Schmalkalden did not sign his name on the title-page, as is customary? Why was he forced to resort to this subterfuge? Was it that the gentleman who commissioned the artist so vain-glorious that only his own name was to appear on the title page? Fol. 22r. - At top, a miniature portrait of an idealized Jewish monarch with patriarchal beard, holding in his left hand a royal scepter, and in his right, a Torah scroll (in observance of Deuteronomy 17:18-19). Below, a clean-shaven non-Jewish monarch, wearing a coat of mail and sporting a saber in his right hand. Jewish law mandates different blessings for seeing Jewish and non-Jewish monarchs. Fol. 22v. - At top, a Jewish sage, dressed in oriental robes, with the index finger of his right hand pointing upward, perhaps signifying the Divine origin of the Book of the Law he carries in his left hand. Below, a non-Jewish scholastic, dressed in typical German attire of the eighteenth century (peruque or powdered wig, cravat, knee breeches). Again, Jewish law prescribes separate blessings for beholding Jewish as opposed to non-Jewish wise men. Fol. 23v. - A Jewish woman reciting the blessing “Le-hadlik ner shel Shabbath,” on Friday evening, upon kindling the suspended Sabbath Judenstern. The ceiling of this well-appointed home is vaulted in medieval style, while the table displays ornate silver overlay. Fol. 24v. - For this final page, the scribe has substituted gold for black ink. He signs the work, as is customary, “Tam ve-nishlam shevach l'E-l Borei Olam” [Completed with praise to the Creator of the World]. The Artist: Jospe Schmalkalden of Mainz. Jospe Schmalkalden was related by marriage to the renowned German-Jewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. In a letter dated 26th October, 1773 addressed to the famed and controversial sage Rabbi Jacob Emden, Mendelssohn requests that Emden send to his mechutan ("in-law"), R. Jospe Schmalkalden, the following works authored by Emden: Migdol Oz, Sha’arei Shamayim and She’eilath Ya’abetz. About the same time, Mendelssohn wrote Schmalkalden a family-oriented letter, in which as a doting father, he proudly describes his children’s traits. See Moses Mendelssohn Gesammelte Schriften Jubiläumsausgabe (1974), Vol. XIX, pp. 178, letter 154; and see A. Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (1973), p. 98. The origin of the surname “Schmalkalden,” is the town of Schmalkalden, in the south-western portion of Thuringia, Germany. There are just two (and possibly three) other manuscripts that are known by Jospe ben Meyer Schmalkalden. The first, written for the wedding of Rabbi Moses Broda of Worms, is now in the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam (Hs Ros 407). The second, also a Seder Keriath Shema (c.1740) is presently housed in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (180/103). (It may be of Dutch provenance, though that is questionable.) A further Schmalkalden manuscript is described in an essay that examines in detail a masterly and most miniscule anonymously illuminated manuscript entitled "Me’ah Berachoth." Dr. Iris Fischoff of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, speculates that it too is the work of Jospe Schmalkalden. (See The Companion Volume to the reproduction One Hundred Blessings, by Messrs. Falter of Facsimile Editions, London,1995, pp. 48-52). Accompanying the present Lot is personal correspondence from Dr. Iris Fischof discussing the present Gradenwitz manuscript, and noting she attributes the three manuscripts examined, all to Schmulkladen (i.e those located in the collections of Gradenwitz, Israel Museum and the private collection in New York). One final artistic legacy by Schmalkalden is his signed design of the title-page of Raphael di Norzi’s Se’ah Soleth, published in Amsterdam in 1757 (Sold by Kestenbaum & Company, Sale VII, June 1999, Lot 531). Consequently, of the information available, what remains is a highly talented artist apparently active between the years 1738 and 1757, in the Rhineland, specifically in the ancient Jewish communities of Mainz and Worms, and possibly with a stint in the Netherlands. Other than that scant information, the enormously talented Schmalkalden remains elusive. .