23 February 2011

New York: 30 Jewish marriage contracts exhibit, opens March 11

The Jewish Museum will open the exhibit "The Art of Matrimony: 30 Splendid Marriage Contracts from the Jewish Theological Seminary Library," on Friday, March 11 to run through June 26.

The library of The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City holds one of the best collections of ketubot - Jewish marriage certificates. Thirty of the finest will be featured in the exhibit, which dates from a 12th century piece to later examples.

Jewish family history researchers can discover much information on these documents (ketubah, plural ketubot), which exist for all communities around the world, and provide family details on the families, communities and customs

The JTS ketubah collection numbers more than 600 works of every type. The majority are from Italy, with others from Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran/Persia, Morocco, Syria and Turkey. Other examples represent Croatia, France, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Ukraine, and the United States. They represent the diversity of Jewish communities throughout history, with information on the couples, marriage customs and artistic styles.

Before a wedding, families negotiate a marriage contract (ketubah), which includes the husband's duties to his wife and monies due her in case of a divorce or her death.
Some examples:
  • The earliest in the exhibit is a rare 12th century Egyptian fragment.
  • 1764 earliest known decorated ketubah from Baghdad, drawn on paper from Augsburg, Germany, and indicating Jewish commercial ties.
  • 1885 Damascus contract shows vivid colors and 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.”
  • 1749 Venetian ketubah features the 12 Zodiac signs and an intricate love knot borrowed from Italian folk culture. The wording says that the bride and 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.“
Although hand-decorated ketubot began to go out of fashion in the late-19th century, there was a revival in the 1960s along with a new interest in Jewish identity. Examples include:
  • A 1999 Archie Granot muti-layeredpapercut.
  • 1961 ketubah by artist Ben Shahn, showing his fascination with Hebrew calligraphy.
Two related JTS faculty lectures are scheduled:

  • Monday, March 14: Dr. David Kraemer, Abbell Librarian and Professor of Talmud and Rabbincs at the JTS, will discuss the history of Jewish marriage contracts.
  • Monday, March 21: Exhibition curator Sharon Liberman Mintz will speak about the art of the decorated marriage contract.
The Jewish Museum was established in 1904, when Judge Mayer Sulzberger donated 26 ceremonial art objects to The Jewish Theological Seminary of America as the core of a museum collection. Today's collection numbers some 26,000 objects, including paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, archaeological artifacts, ceremonial objects and broadcast media.

Museum hours: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday: 11am-5:45pm; Thursday, 11am-8pm; and Friday, 11am-4pm. Admission: Adults, $12; seniors, $10; students, $7.50; no charge for Jewish Museum members and children under 12. Admission is free on Saturdays.

For information on The Jewish Museum, click here  For program and ticket information, click here.

The Museum is at 1109 Fifth Avenue (at 92nd Street), Manhattan.

1 comment:

  1. Taibele10:36 AM

    I also have one sample as a Family treasure. It dates 19 Century and was printed in Poland, however the couple was from Russia (i.e. territory of Contemporary Ukraine)