Prato Haggadah

Ms. 9478 - Library of Jewish Theological Seminary (New York, USA)

Alternate Titles:

Haggadah de Prato, Prato-Haggadah

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Codiology

Alternate Titles

Haggadah de Prato
Prato-Haggadah

Type
Extent / Format

160 pages / 21.0 x 14.0 cm

Origin
Date
Around 1300
Style
Genre
Language
Illustrations

40 miniatures illuminated in gold and silver and 60 partially illuminated or only drawn

Short description

Jewish culture is communicated in a fantastic manner through this manuscript from Spain, which was completed in 1300. Unbelievably rich and extraordinarily refined in its artistic decoration, the so-called Prato Haggadah brings the celebratory texts and songs of Passover meal on the occasion of the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian imprisonment to full expression. Through the rare event that several of the miniatures are left uncompleted, the possibility is offered to comprehend the creation process of a magnificently decorated manuscript. Furthermore, the Prato Haggadah is one of the oldest Spanish Haggadic in history.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Prato Haggadah

Jewish culture is communicated in a fantastic manner through this manuscript from Spain, which was completed in 1300. Unbelievably rich and extraordinarily refined in its artistic decoration, the so-called Prato Haggadah brings the celebratory texts and songs of Passover meal on the occasion of the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian imprisonment to full expression. Through the rare event that several of the miniatures are left uncompleted, the possibility is offered to comprehend the creation process of a magnificently decorated manuscript. Furthermore, the Prato Haggadah is one of the oldest Spanish Haggadic in history.

Huge Importance for Passover

The Passover feast on the occasion of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt stands as a central pillar within Jewish culture. Therefore on the eve of the event, a special feast is held. Accompanying this great meal is the stories from the Book of Exodus and songs, which are read aloud from the Haggadah, as well as sung. Especially valuable texts like the Prato-Haggadah were rarely on hand. It can be speculated, whether or not this text was given by an important patron, or whether the book with the religious text had another context.

A Magnificent Manuscript for a Synagogue?

The Prato Haggadah contains no text, different from the common Haggadah texts celebrating the Passover meal, which instantly are connected with the actual meal, food, and rights on the table. This fact led to the assumption that the Spanish manuscript was used for public readings in a Synagogue, and the faithful would head home for their own personal Haggadah in their residence. The splendid layout of the manuscript would also underline this assumption. Arisen in 1300 in Spain – counting as one of the oldest Spanish Haggadah’s- the Prato Haggadah impresses next to the Hebrew text, especially through its richly imaged design.

Extraordinary Artistic Design

Throughout the 160 pages, 100 miniatures are collected. They are enriched with bright colors and precious gold and silver. One can even find entire page depictions - like a Passover meal – as bright borders from the text lines in the form of ornamental jewelry outline the images, which are provided figurative elements. Mythical creatures, birds, dogs, and other animals scrimmage between the stylized leaflets. Therewith, the artist clearly let his phantasies run free, as he integrated humorous and soulful scenes. Thus, many pages are witness to a large rabbit hunt. Even the Initials are artfully decorated and rounded by a partly colorful frame

An Anomaly of Manuscripts

Despite the splendid design of the manuscript, the work is nonetheless an unfinished illuminated Hebrew Manuscript. This represents an extraordinarily rare occurrence and allows the beholder an interesting glimpse into the creation process of a manuscript. Thus the production steps required to craft a fine script can come to be fully understood, which only serves to bring the beholder and the original artists together.
The Prato Haggadah is therefore, considered in its totality, an invaluable work both for the history of art, and also for the analysis of the most important festival on the Jewish calendar, Passover.

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