Mishneh Torah

Artist: Master of the Barbo Missal (Italian)

Date: ca. 1457

Culture: North Italian

Medium: Tempera and gold leaf on parchment; leather binding

Dimensions: Binding: 9 7/16 × 8 3/16 × 3 1/4 in. (24 × 20.8 × 8.2 cm)
Leaf (of 346 leaves): 8 15/16 × 7 1/4 in. (22.7 × 18.4 cm)

Classification: Manuscripts and Illuminations

Credit Line: Jointly owned by The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2013. Purchased for the Israel Museum through the generosity of an anonymous donor; René and Susanne Braginsky, Zurich; Renée and Lester Crown, Chicago; Schusterman Foundation, Israel; and Judy and Michael Steinhardt, New York. Purchased for The Metropolitan Museum of Art with Director’s Funds and Judy and Michael Steinhardt Gift.

Accession Number: 2013.495

Description

The Mishneh Torah is the magnum opus of Moses Maimonides, the renowned medieval philosopher. This remarkable text consolidates Jewish law into a systematic, comprehensive and accessible anthology, still consulted by rabbis and scholars today.

This manuscript copy of the Mishneh Torah is one of the most sumptuous ever made. Large illuminations illustrating aspects of the law preface different sections of the book. Law books rarely benefitted from such lavish decoration. With no iconographic precedent to guide him, the painter looked to the world around him. Thus the manuscript provides an opulent guide to contemporary costume, buildings, and customs. With its burnished gold letters and inventive narrative scenes, it attests to the refined aesthetic sensibility of the elite members of Italy’s Jewish community.

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