AUCTION 63 | Thursday, November 13th, 2014 at 1:00
Fine Judaica: Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Graphic and Ceremonial Art

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Lot 322


Torah Scroll Presented to Czar Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia by the Jewish Community of Penza, Russia. The Scroll housed in a silk pillowed leather box, hinged lid with silver plaque engraved in Russian: Его Императорскому Величеству Государю Императору Николаю 2 От Пензенской Еврейской Общины 28го июля Г. Пенза. [“To His Imperial Highness, The Lord Emperor Nikolai II. From the Penza Jewish Community. 28th June, 1904. City of Penza.”] Torah Scroll, entirely complete, placed on two wooden rollers. Hebrew, written in traditional Aschkenazi calligraphic hand on vellum, set in 42 lines per column (vavei-amudim). Height of scroll: 12.5 inches; height of text: 9 inches. Length of box: 24 inches, width: 8.5 inches, height: 5 inches. Accompanied by recent documentation positively attesting to the scroll’s ritual status.

Penza, Russia: 1904

Est: $30,000 - $40,000
This Torah Scroll was presented to the Russian Czar, Nicholas II on the 28th June, 1904 (i.e. 15th June, 1904 according to the Gregorian calendar) by the Jewish community of Penza, upon the visit of the Czar to the city in order to inaugurate a new railway line. Penza was founded as a Russian frontier fortress-city and is located 390 miles southeast of Moscow. (A century old Jewish cemetery exists in Penza that was in use until 1967). It was customary in Russia that when the Czar visited a Jewish community, a Torah Scroll would be commissioned in his honor and subsequently presented to him. Of course the relationship that Nicholas II maintained with the Jews of his realm was far from healthy. Throughout the entire span of his rule (1894-1917) hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews emigrated. Nicholas II’s reign was marked in particular by a violent struggle against revolutionary movements, which culminated in the Bolshevik Revolution and the Czar’s removal from the throne and ultimate execution. <<Provenance:>> Following the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922, the Communist leadership was under severe economic threat. Both for ideological reasons - undermining the ancien régime’s cultural legitimacy - as well as for more immediate financial reasons - a need to raise cash to refinance the state and support infrastructure and industrial improvements - the State organized a series of sales, disposing of a great many of the collections and possessions that had belonged to the Czar and his family. Among the treasures accumulated, were Torah Scrolls presented to the Czar by various Russian-Jewish communities. Fourteen of these Scrolls were purchased by the Russian born Jewish businessman, Walter N. Williams (1886-1973), chairman of the Palestine-British Bank and prominent in Anglo-Jewish affairs. Williams subsequently distributed many of these Scrolls across the world. In 1953 he presented one to Yitzhak Ben Zvi, President of the State of Israel and in 1963, another such scroll was given to Bar Ilan University as part of the Judaica collection donated by Williams. This specific “Penza Torah” was given by Williams to his son-in-law, the late Harry Landy of London and has remained in the family’s possessions until recently. For another such scroll publicly exhibited - presented to the Czar by the Jewish Community of Libava, Latvia - see Hermitage Amsterdam Exhibition: At the Russian Court, Palace and Protocol in the 19th Century (June 2009-January 2010).