Museum  December 29, 2017  Chandra Noyes

Met Acquires Rare Hebrew Bible

Courtesy Sotheby's

Illuminated Hebrew Bible, Spain, early-14th century.

Ahead of a Sotheby's auction of Important Judaica on December 20, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased a rare illuminated Hebrew Bible. Sotheby's estimated the text's value between $3.5 and $5 million, but before bidders had a chance, the Met swept in, making a pre-auction private purchase for an undisclosed amount.

 

Produced in the Castile region of Spain in the first half of the 14th century, this Hebrew Bible exemplifies the confluence of cultures existing in Spain at that time. Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths coexisted for a brief period in medieval Spain. Influences of all three cultures are evident in this work, making it an embodiment of the interaction between these cultural traditions.

In a statement from Sotheby's about the acquisition, Melanie Holcomb, Curator in the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, explained: “The Jewish communities of medieval Spain set a high standard for the arts. This beautiful and rare Bible celebrates the sacred Hebrew text, and remarkably embraces both Christian and Islamic aesthetic sensibilities. It will completely transform our display of the art of medieval Spain at the Cloisters, importantly reminding us that this was a vibrant, heterogeneous society.”

While the Met has many bibles and illuminated manuscripts in its collection, there are thought to be only six  medieval Hebrew manuscripts surviving today. The rarity of this piece as well as its high quality and exquisite condition make it a stunning addition to the Met's collection.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra is managing editor for Art & Object.

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