AUCTION 66 | Thursday, November 19th, 2015 at 1:00
Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts, Ceremonial Objects and Graphic Art

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Lot 83


Illuminated Marriage Contract. Uniting Isaac Moses, son of Shabthai Zadik, with Hanna, daughter of Mordehai Zvi. Witnessed by: Binyamin son of Shem-Tov Havali and Hizkiyahu, son of Gabriel Atrik. Artist-scribe: Shmuel Manoach, son of Shabthai Isaac of Fiano. Touch discolored, some very minimal fraying at extremities, lower edge with small taped repair on verso. 18 x 27.5 inches.

Rome: 28th Iyar 1757

Est: $80,000 - $100,000
<<This Kethubah contains multiple artistic and literary elements that brings to it as a whole, a distinctiveness that is quite remarkable.>> <<Texts:>> The outermost frame contains a continuous line of text in a square Hebrew hand wishing the bride and groom abundant blessings as per the Biblical couples: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel and Leah, Mordechai the Righteous and Queen Esther. Invoking such prominent names lends importance to the sanctity of the union. This is similarly found in the Yale University Kethubah (Rome 1797, Beinecke Library Heb. 93:5). Thereafter, appears a portion of chap. 128 of the Book of Psalms, which reads as a series of literary imageries, suggesting one’s wife be as a fruitful vine and one’s sons as olive branches - mirroring the vegetal motifs in the side-panels of the Kethubah’s border. This is similarly found in the Braginsky Kethubah (Rome 1798, cat. no. 41). Additional verses of the outermost border are from the Book of Isaiah (24:16): “From the end of the earth we heard songs,” “The righteous shall be upraised.” Further texts appears below architrave: “With a good omen and good luck to this bridegroom and bride;” followed by a lengthy acronym representing the verse from Proverbs (18:22): “He who has found a wife has found good, and has obtained favor from God.” <<Iconography:>> Perhaps the most striking and seemingly incongruous design elements utilized in this Kethubah is the secular, allegorical imagery in the upper register, that of the female figures of Justice and Peace. This combination of allegories is represented in the arts by such painters as Corrado Giaquinto and Theodoor van Thulden. Prof. Shalom Sabar in his work “Ketubbah,” records an example of an actual work of art replicated in a 1790 Kethubah, which quite remarkably gives homage to Titian’s Venus of Urbino (see no. 66). Sabar explains that the use of allegorical personification in the late 18th- and early 19th-centuries was characteristic of Roman Kethubot. He cites two Roman examples in the Hebrew Union College, from 1813 and 1818 (nos. 76 and 77). In Kethubah no. 76 the artist includes allegories of Benignity and Good Omen and in Kethubah no. 77, the artist similarly utilizes adornments featuring Marital Harmony, Steadfastness, Goodness and Love. These sentiments and illusions to marriage are obvious choices to beautify a wedding contract. A more elaborate example appears in a 1775 Roman example (Ketubbot Italiane, pl. 34) with six labeled allegories: Power, Nobility, Wisdom, Happiness, Abundance and Chastity. Interestingly, in a Kethubah from Rome, 1797 (National Library of Israel, KET 8 * 901/331) can be found the unusual use of allegories that do not in fact relate to wedding, marriage or love, but to Justice, Victory and Fortress. In our particular Kethubah we find the use of the allegories of Justice and Peace. The figure on the right would not be Beauty, as suggested by “Ketubbot Italiane” but rather Peace. The olive branch in her hand is a Biblical reference to universal peace, in connection to which the earliest Biblical reference is in the Book of Genesis when the dove returns to Noah bearing an olive branch in its beak (8:11). This symbolism for peace is also used in both Greek and Roman mythology. However, it is also possible that the female figure on the right is not the allegory of Peace, but is symbolic of the marriage celebrated, as one sees in “Happy Union,” c. 1575, one of the Four Allegories of Love by Paolo Veronese, who depicts a wedding, possibly Venus and Cupid, marked with a prominent olive branch in the female’s hand. A third possible interpretation of the significance of the right-hand figure can be attributed to a white lily that prominently appears above the olive branch clutched in her left hand. A white lily in Christian iconography represents chastity, innocence and purity. Similarly, in Greek symbolism the lily represents birth and motherhood - all obvious motifs appropriate for a bride’s marriage contract. Meanwhile the orb and its rays held in the figure’s right hand is representative of the World and its continuance. This mirrors the sentiments expressed in Psalm 128 (see above) concerning the birth of future generations. Why would these Allegories be chosen for a Jewish bride and groom - and without the inclusion of the predictable allegories of love, marriage and family? Perhaps they are allusions to the specific names of the bride and groom in the present Kethubah: Biblical Moses had a strong sense of Justice, first in killing the Egyptian, and then in escaping to Midian where again his social justice resulted in chasing away the shepherds which in turn led him to wed his bride, Zipporah. Similarly, the name of the bride - Hannah - who in the Bible remained barren for many years and prayed to God, after which she gave birth to Samuel the Prophet and became a Mother. <<Heraldry:>> Two prominent crowned coats-of-arms appear at the upper and lower portions of the Kethubah, together representing the families united in wedlock. The upper coat-of-arms features two rampant lions flanking a palm tree (possibly the Foa family). The lower coat-of-arms features a single rampant lion beside a column, topped by a crescent moon. This coat-of-arms is flanked by two winged putti who appear to point to the Biblical textual border below. <<Micrography:>> Surrounding the legal text of the Kethubah, within the inner border and microscopically delineated in the scroll-patterning, is the micrographic text of the Song of Songs and the Book of Ruth, with the former running clockwise and the later counter-clockwise. The Song of Songs, is the love poem by King Solomon, written as an allegorical dialogue between God and His people. The inclusion of this text lends sanctity to the Marriage Contract which represents not simply a physical union, but a spiritual union: Man, Woman and God The use of the Book of Ruth on a wedding contract is not uncommon, if not the entire text, then certainly the verse that includes the blessing: “May the Lord make the woman who is enters your home as Rachel and Leah (4:11), relating as it does to the furtherance of Jewish generations. The artist-scribe, Samuel Manoach, son of Shabthai Yitzchok of Fiano, was also known as Samuel Traquillo and was originally from Ancona. His name appears in the colophon at the end of the micrography portion. <<Provenance:>> Acquired from Franco Levi (Turin). See Ketubbot Italiane (1984) pl. 25, pp. 96-7. <<Overall:>> A tremendous example of the use of secular iconography in a Kethubah - and an early Roman example at that. This Kethubah has never before appeared at auction, but has until now remained in private hands since its composition.