Exquisite Mahzor Revealed at Christie's

Earlier this week Christie's unveiled an extraordinary fifteenth-century Jewish festival prayerbook--an illuminated Mahzor containing 442 vellum leaves. I had the pleasure of seeing this book in New York last week, and the illustrations seem as bold and bright as they day they were created, c. 1490, near Florence, Italy.

Illumination.jpgIn the image seen here, a full-page border incorporates medallions with profile heads, landscape vignettes, and a coat of arms. The illumination is thought to be the work of Florentine artist Giovanni di Giuliano Boccardi, known as Boccardino il vecchio (1460-1529), or of his followers.

Screen shot 2012-04-18 at 11.29.14 AM.pngThe chunky Hebrew manuscript is bound in a mid sixteenth-century gold-tooled goatskin binding (seen above), featuring a coat of arms, a unicorn, and a rabbit. The text--in black, red, blue, and gold--is comprised of prayers for everyday rituals, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkoth.

The Mahzor was purchased in Frankfurt before 1908 and subsequently owned by Edmond Bicart-See and his family in Paris. It has never been publicly exhibited. The manuscript goes to auction on May 11 in Paris and is expected to bring $540,000-800,000.

Photos © Christie's Images Limited 2012