HEBREW MANUSCRIPT. Esther Scroll.
Engraved Megillat Esther by Salom Italia. Amsterdam, ca. 1641. Printed in black ink on vellum, 4 membranes, 87 mm. high, 2158 mm. long. 32 columns, (36 x 42 mm.) of 15 lines. Mounted on contemporary ivory roller, 245 mm. high (finial later replacement), contained in red papier-mch tube, stamped in gold "I.V."; some wear to initial panel, small tear in lower border, no loss of decoration, minor staining.
Printed on cream-colored vellum, beautifully harmonized with the scroll's ivory roller, the megillah begins with a decoratively-cut border lined with birds and piped with silk. Its introductory panel shows a crowned shield (center rubbed out), held by two nude winged putti standing on either side. A banderole hovering above the shield carries the Hebrew inscription: "al-Yedei Shalom Italia" [By the hand of Salom Italia]. The scroll's text is contained in 32 octagonal frames enveloped by dense flora and foliage, delicately and exquisitely rendered, and inhabited by various specimens of birds, butterflies and other insects.
Born in Lisbon, Portugal ca. 1619, the famous Jewish artist Salom Italia likely received his early artistic training in Mantua and, perhaps, the Venetian States. In 1641 he settled in Amsterdam, where he produced a series of lavishly engraved Esther scroll borders which exerted great influence on the history and development of Esther scroll decoration. The present megillah's engraved border is in many respects unique among the artist's known productions. Avoiding the architectural, figural, and landscape elements that he employs in most of his Esther scroll borders (see the previous two lots), Salom Italia displays in this megillah his great proficiency in rendering floral, foliate, bird and insect motifs. While these elements frequently appear as subsidiary motifs within Italia's other megillah borders, and, more prominently, within his prized ketubbah border (an example of which is preserved in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem), in no other work do they proliferate, as in the present scroll, as the exclusive source of decoration.
VERY RARE. Not in the extensive Esther scroll collections of JTS or The Jewish Museum, NY. Not listed within M. Narkiss' survey of Salom Italia's oeuvre.