Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Ardon Bar-Hama
Digital photography funded by George S. Blumenthal, New York
The Birds’ Head Haggadah
Southern Germany
Scribe: Menahem
Handwritten on parchment; dark brown ink and tempera; square Ashkenazic script
H: 27 cm; W: 18.2 cm
Purchased through the gift of Fred Monosson, Boston
Accession number: B46.04.0912 ; 180/057
 
 
The name of this early Passover Haggadah derives from its depiction of human figures with pronounced birds’ heads. The enigmatic practice of drawing bird and animal heads in place of human faces is found in other Ashkenazi manuscripts of the 13th and 14th centuries and has been interpreted in various ways.
This is the first illustrated Haggadah known to be produced as an entity separate from the prayer book. It contains depictions with ritual and textual themes: the preparation of matzah and the various blessings over wine and food recited during the Seder; biblical scenes like the gathering of the manna or the giving of the Torah; and messianic images such as the rebuilt Jerusalem.

Publications:
The Jewish World 365 Days, from the Collections of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, USA, 2004
The Israel Museum, Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
Beauty and Sanctity: the Israel Museum at 40. A Series of Exhibitions Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2006

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir