Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Torah crown (keter)

Andrea Zambelli "L'Honnesta" (Italian, active 1732–1772)
ca. 1740–50
Italian, Venice
Silver, parcel gilt
Overall (confirmed, irregular diameter): 10 13/16 × 12 3/8 × 12 3/8 in. (27.5 × 31.4 × 31.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Director's Fund, 2013
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 508
Exceptional for its size and precious material, this Torah crown is a rare survival of 18th-century Italian silver and a testimony to the artistic virtuosity of goldsmithing in Venice. In synagogues the scroll of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, is often decorated with a set of vestments and silver ornaments including a crown or finials, and a shield. The crown augments the Torah’s status as an object associated with royalty and speaks to the centrality of the Torah in Jewish life. The motifs depicted include ritual references such as priestly garments, a miniature temple, a menorah, and the Tablets of the Law, the latter engraved in Hebrew with the Ten Commandments. Such rich embellishment is indicative of the wealth and influential status of the Jewish congregation in the Venetian city state. The maker, Andrea Zambelli, is known to have made a wide range of ritual Judaica as well as religious silver for the local churches. A later inscription in Hebrew documents that this "crown of glory, and diadem of beauty" [Isaiah 28:5], was given by the philanthropist and president of the Jewish community in Padua, Gabriel Trieste, to his congregation in the mid-19th century.
Inscription: The crown contains applied emblems of ritual significance, including Tablets of the Law, a Temple, Table of Showbread (Shulhan), Menorah, and Apron of the High Priest (Ephod).

[1] Tablets of the Law
The Tablets of the Law are the front and central image of the crown. The Tablets’ tops are rounded while the bottom edges slant upward toward each other. They are engraved with the first two or three words of each of the Ten Commandments. Of special note are the words for the second commandment: לא תעשה לך [trans.: “Thou shalt not make unto thee [a graven image]...” (Exodus 20:3)] , as opposed to the more traditional start to the commandment: לא יהיה לך [trans.: “Thou shalts have no [other gods]...” (Exodus 20:2).]

[2] Temple
To the right of the Tablets of the Law is a Temple. The three tiered building parallels the shape of the crown’s finials. The tower form applied to Jewish ritual objects originated in the Spanish domains in the fifteenth century on Torah finials. After the dispersal of Spanish Jewry, the tower-shaped structure was introduced with the Jews who settled in Italy.

[3] Table of Showbread
To the right of the Temple is the Table of Showbread, or Shulhan, used in the Temple to display ritual bread. The emblem contains two columns, each consisting of two rows. This form is based on the biblical text in Lev. 24:5-6, where the table is described as containing two rows of six shelves, so that each of the twelve tribes of Israel would be represented through the symbolic bread.

[4] Menorah
To the right of the Table of Showbread is the Menorah of the Temple. The emblem contains seven branches, with knobs and floral decorations on each of the branches. The number of branches and decoration follows the biblical description in Ex. 25:31-33.

[5] Apron of the High Priest
To the right of the Menorah, completing the circle of ritual emblems around the crown, is the Apron of the High Priest. The apron’s bottom fringe is lined with a pattern of alternating bells and pomegranates, according to the biblical description in Ex. 28:34.

The principal inscription on the crown, in Hebrew, states:

עטרת צבי וצפירת תפארה אשר בונה נדבה נדב לבן של הנביד (!) המאושר (!) גבראל טריאסטי ז"ל לעשות לכבוד התורה ישרה וברה (!) בעיני האלהים ישמר ה"הו לדורי דורים אכי"ר

[trans.: “A crown of glory and a diadem of beauty [Isaiah 28:5], created with great generosity for the son of the wealthy donor the late Gabriel Trieste to do honor for the true and blessed Torah in the eyes of God, may He guard him for endless generations, Amen, may it be the will of God.”]

The original verse from Isaiah states:
ביום ההוא יהיה יהוה צבאות לעטרת צבי ולצפירת תפארה…
[trans.: “On that day, the Lord of Hosts shall become a crown of beauty and a diadem of glory…”]

The secondary Hebrew inscription, in a divergent style, reads:
ועתה תנצב"ה
[trans.: “And now, may his soul be bound up in the bonds of life.”]

Marking: base rim marked by Andrea Zambelli, "L'Honnesta," active 1732-72 and assay master Zuanne Premuda, active 1719-49; the emblems marked MP below lion of San Marco (Piero Pazzi no. 580 or 581).
Gabriel Trieste ; Schachne Moses Salomon , Paris (by 1929) ; Mira Salomon , New York (until 1949; sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, December 6, 1949, lot 137; sold to the rabbi of a Jewish congregation, Detroit); Anonymous Former owner ; [ Ehrenthal , New York; sold to Steinhardt ] ; Michael Steinhardt , New York (by 1993–2013) April 29, 2013, lot 113; sold to MMA); [ their sale, Sotheby's, New York , April 29, 2013, lot 113; sold to MMA ]
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