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Rome to Jerusalem: Four Jewish Masterpieces from the Vatican Library

September 27, 2005-January 27, 2006
Location: Judaica and Jewish Ethnography Wing
Curator: Daisy Raccah-Djivre, Rachel Sarfati
Media: Illuminated manuscripts
Four of the most important illuminated Hebrew manuscripts in the collection of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana are exhibited for the first time in Israel, as part of the series of Timeless Masterpieces on loan from sister institutions in honor of the Israel Museum’s 40th Anniversary. A magnificently illustrated 15th-century manuscript of Moses Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah testifies to the reverence of later generations for this 12th- century thinker and his codification of Jewish law. A contemporaneous manuscript of Jacob ben Asher’s famous medieval legal text, the Arba‘ah Turim, also features lavish illustrations in Renaissance style. The realistic depictions in these two 15th-century North Italian manuscripts shed light on Jewish customs at the time – from rabbinic courts to wedding ceremonies and holiday celebrations. A complete Hebrew Bible codex and a book of Psalms, both produced in Rome in the 13th century, are among the earliest such manuscripts in existence. They are decorated with exquisite, colorful floral and zoomorphic motifs illuminated in gold.