Exhibit Information

Jewish Museum

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Website http://www.thejewishmuseum.org

THE ART OF MATRIMONY

Opening: 11 MARCH 2011 - Closing: 26 JUNE 2011

THE ART OF MATRIMONY: THIRTY SPLENDID MARRIAGE CONTRACTS

FROM THE JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY LIBRARY

 

 

Mantua, italy, 1737
Ketubbot, which typically record the Bridegroom's Obligations to his Bride—in case of Death or Divorce—have been integral to Jewish-Marriages for Millennia. They were kept in the homes of Married-Jews living in the West, under Christian-Governance, or in the East, under Muslim-Rule.

 

Corfu, Greece, 1725
Thirty of the finest of the Ketubbah-Collection of the Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary have been chosen for the current exhibition at the Jewish Museum. From one of the earliest-known decorated-documents [twelfth century] to recent creations, these exquisite Marriage-Contracts provide a wealth of information on the Artistic-Creativity, Cultural-Interactions, & Social-History of the Communities in which they were created.
Livorno, Italy, 1807

 

The largest number of Ketubbot in the exhibition are from Italy, where the Art of the Decorated-Ketubbah found its most beautiful expression—during the 17th & 18th-centuries—under the influence of Renaissance & Baroque Art.

Bordeaux, France, 1776
 

Also included are magnificent Marriage-Contracts from Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Morocco, Persia, Syria, & Turkey, each absorbing the Visual-Language of the Surrounding-Culture.

Isfahan, Iran, 1885

 

In addition, visitors can see examples from Croatia, France, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Ukraine, & the United States.

 

Herat, Afghanistan, 1867
The Marriage-Contracts in this show represent the great diversity & range of Jewish-Settlement throughout History. They offer a fascinating look at the lives of Individual-Couples, varied Marriage-Customs, & the spread of Artistic-Styles through Commerce & Trade.

 

Included in the exhibition is a fragment of a rare 12th-century Marriage-Contract from Egypt.

 

Demascus, Syria, 1885
A 1764 Ketubbah, the earliest-known decorated Marriage-Contract from Baghdad, features elaborate-designs on decorative-paper from Augsburg, Germany, indicative of the commercial-ties that bound far-flung Jewish-Communities together.

 

An 1885 Contract from Damascus includes vivid-colors & lush Floral-Imagery, echoing the Blessing bestowed on a couple as they stand under the Bridal-Canopy: "Grant perfect joy to these loving companions, just as You made your Creations joyful in the Garden of Eden.”

New York City, USA, 1911

 

Also on-view is a distinctive 1749 Ketubbah from Venice, featuring the Twelve-Signs of the Zodiac & an intricate Love-Knot that has no Beginning nor End, a design-element borrowed from Italian Folk-Culture.

 

Ben Shah, New Jersey, 1961
In unusually-romantic Engagement-Articles, the Bride & Groom "agree to conduct their mutual life with love and affection, without hiding or concealing anything from each other; furthermore, they will control their possessions equally."

 

Hand-decorated Ketubbot began to go out of fashion in the late 19th-century, but were revived in the 1960s, with highly-individualized Texts & Ornamentation—perhaps as part of the renewed-interest in exploring Jewish-Identity.

 

An example of this trend is paper-cut-artist Archie Granot’s 1999 work, which shows his personal style & technique for Jewish-Ritual-Works, distinguished by multiple-layers of Cut-Paper.

 

The exhibition also includes a 1961 Ketubbah from the Collection of The Jewish Museum by artist Ben Shahn, created more as a work-of-art than a Usable-Contract. Its design shows his fascination with Hebrew-Calligraphy, including a Red-Stamp, containing all the letters in the Hebrew-Alphabet. This image came to be Shahn’s Personal-Emblem.

 

Kettubot were not merely Legal-Documents but also became splendid works of art. Beginning with the first simply-decorated examples from Medieval-Egypt, they were frequently embellished with Decorative-Borders & Fine-Calligraphy.

Jerusalem, Israel, 1999

 

Over time, the Ornamentation became increasingly-elaborate. By the 17th-century, they were richly-decorated, with Figurative, Floral, Architectural, & Geometric-Designs. Regional Stylistic-Traditions developed, emanating from the two major-centers of Ketubbah-Ornamentation, Italy & the Middle-East.

 

[Video of Curator Sharon Liberman Mintz showing the Artworks soon.]

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