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Rare Mishneh Torah sold at record price

MishnehTorah sold at Sotheby's
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Detail of a page from the Mishneh Torah. Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama

Mishneh Torah, one of the finest illustrated Hebrew manuscripts ever known to have created, was purchased for a record price by The Israel Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art ahead of a scheduled auction in New York 29 April 2013.

The Mishneh Torah was the highlight of the Michael & Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection in the sale. It was purchased jointly by The Israel Museum, Jerusalem and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in advance of the auction sale, Sotheby’s said.

Sotheby’s didn’t disclose the price but said “it is at a level significantly in excess” of the current record for Judaica at auction which was set in 1989 at Sotheby’s London when a Hebrew Bible sold for $2.9 million.

Steinhardt said, “The acquisition of this remarkable manuscript by the Israel Museum and The Metropolitan Museum of Art is poetic given Judy’s and my longstanding involvement with both institutions; and it is particularly meaningful that this event marks the first significant collaboration between the two museums.”

The Mishneh Torah, completed circa 1457 in northern Italy, is one of the finest illuminated Hebrew manuscripts ever created. The text, authored by Moses Maimonides, the supreme Jewish writer and philosopher of the Middle Ages, is a synthesis of Jewish law and arguably the most important medieval Hebrew work of any kind.

The manuscript, with its superbly penned text and magnificent series of illustrations, was originally conceived in two volumes. The first part, now in the Vatican (MS. Ross.498), comprises books I-V, the present volume consists of books VII-XIV. It features six splendid nearly full-page illuminated illustrations as well as 41 initial word panels, images and marginal illuminations and is by far the most profusely illustrated manuscript of the Mishneh Torah ever made.

Author: Editor

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