For related Silesian engraved goblets see:
O. Drahotova, Barokni Rezane Sklo 1600-1760, in the Umeleckoprumyslove Muzeum V Praze, Galerie Hlavniho Mesta Prahy, Zamek Troja, Prague, 1989, pp 132-140 for illustrations of various Silesian engraved goblets with related decorative features.
D. Zoedler, Schlesisches Glas, Würzburg, 1996, p. 122 ill.54.
All figures on the goblets are dressed according to 18th century German Jewish Ashkenazi custom, the bearded men in their usual barettes, ruffs and cloaks, the women with their horned head-dresses, ruffs and cloaks.
The scenes depict the synagogue of Fürth, a Bavarian town, four miles from Nürnberg. From the sixteenth century onwards it became customary in Ashkenazi, German speaking areas to celebrate the wedding in the courtyard of the synagogue. The scenes engraved on this set of glasses, most probably designed as a wedding gift, show two stages of the marriage process:
1. The initiation or Engagement Shiddukhin.
Within German Jewry the prevailing custom was to have a formal engagement long before marriage, when the conditions of the forthcoming match had been agreed upon by the parties of the bride and groom or their representatives and written out in formal contract in which the parties promised, under the penalty of a fine Kenas, in case of a breach of promise of the engagement by one of the parties, to be married at an appointed time. An important aspect of the engagement was the breaking of an earthen vessel to symbolise the certainty that just as the broken pot can never be mended, so broken engagement cannot be repaired.
2. Completion of the marriage proper Nissu'in.
These scenes were depicted in several books containing engraved plates of Jewish ceremonies and customs detailing religious and cultural life of 18th century German-Jewish society, of which those of Kirchner, Jüdisches Ceremoniel, Nürnberg, 1724, second enlarged edition and the first one with copper engravings appears to have served as a model for the engraved scenes in the present set.
Very similar plates of the wedding scenes are to be found in the following books:
J. Buxtorf, the elder, Synagoga Judaica, Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1728;
J.J. Beck, Tractatus de Juribus Judaeorum, von Recht der Juden, Nürnberg, 1730;
J.C.G. Bodenschatz, Kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden, Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1748.
For further related literature see:
The Jewish Encyclopedia, entry: Marriage, pp.335-349;
J. Gutmann, Beauty in Holiness, Ktav Publishing House, 1970, pp. 313-339;
A. Rubens, A History of Jewish Costume, 1973, pp.114-138;
A. Rubens, A Jewish Iconography, London, 1981-1982, pl. 269 (Buxtorf); 559,561,562 (Kirchner); 610,611,612,613 (Bodenschatz); 1394 (i) (Beck);
J.Gutmann, The Jewish Life Cycle, Leiden, 1987, pl. XXXIV and pp.10-18.
We wish to thank Moshe Brown, Christie's International Judaica specialist, for his research.