Just in Time for Passover: Library to Exhibit the Prato Haggadah

Press Contact: Nina Jacobson
Office: (212) 678-8950
Email: nijacobson@jtsa.edu

March 6, 2006, New York, NY

Just in time for Passover, the newly–conserved Prato Haggadah (Spain, circa 1300), one of the world's only known unfinished Hebrew illuminated manuscripts and the first to undergo pigment analysis, will be on display in The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary from April 7–July 7.

The exhibit will feature nearly fifty folios that showcase breathtaking illuminated leaves, including text illustrations of the four sons, matzah, maror, and a medieval rendering of the land of Goshen. Highlights of The Library's extraordinary collection are available by visiting The Library.

The Prato Haggadah was subject to non–destructive pigment analysis, performed in situ by Dr. Silvia A. Centeno at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This analysis has immense importance for art historians, as it allows, for the first time, a detailed analysis of the composition of pigments used during this period.

The haggadah is also significant in its present form because, at some early point in its history, it was brought from Spain to Italy, where an Ashkenazic section of text was added. The haggadah embodies and represents, therefore, the unity of the Jewish world despite its local differences. In addition, the codex is especially fascinating as it demonstrates the making of a manuscript in the Middle Ages, enabling the audience to view its illumination after the text was written, beginning with the preparatory drawings and concluding with the application of pigments. Conservation, performed by conservator Nellie Stavisky at JTS, as well as the exhibition itself, was made possible through a generous grant awarded by the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation.

The mysterious provenance of the haggadah only adds to its allure. Nothing at all is known of either the patron or scribe and little is known of its whereabouts from the time it was produced (circa 1300) until 1928, when its then owner, Dr. Ludwig Pollak, a native of Prague living in Rome, promised the haggadah to his friend, Rabbi David Prato, then Chief Rabbi of Rome. Dr. Pollak perished in the Holocaust; the haggadah miraculously resurfaced and made its way to Rabbi Prato's only living heir. It was acquired by The Library in 1964.

In addition, The Library will showcase the works of Archie Granot, Asher Kalderon, and Avner Moriah in a companion exhibit entitled "The Haggadah as Seen Through the Eyes of Contemporary Artists." Exhibit hours are Sunday, 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; Monday–Thursday 9:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Friday 9:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m. (or JTS closing time). Admission is free; photo ID is required. Group tours are available. Further information about the exhibition is available by contacting Library information at (212) 678–8082 or by visiting www.jtsa.edu/library.

Editors/Reporters: For further information or to schedule a personal tour of "The Prato Haggadah: An Illuminated Medieval Manuscript in the Making," please contact Sherry S. Kirschenbaum in the Department of Communications at (212) 678–8953 or email.

Founded in 1886 as a rabbinical school, The Jewish Theological Seminary today is the academic and spiritual center of Conservative Judaism worldwide, encompassing a world–class library and five schools. JTS trains tomorrow's religious, educational, academic and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.

Visit the JTS website at www.jtsa.edu.