Published April 29, 2013
NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Israel Museum in Jerusalem have jointly acquired a 15th-century handwritten and illuminated Torah, they announced Monday.
The Mishneh Torah is a rare manuscript with text by the Middle Ages Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. It is the second of a two-volume manuscript featuring six large illustrations plus 32 smaller images and marginal decorations. The first volume is housed in the Vatican Library.
The two institutions said they would share the Torah on a rotating basis.
The Torah was created in 1457 in the style of Northern Italian Renaissance miniature painting. It was restored at the conservation lab of the Israel Museum, where it has been on loan since 2007 and on public view since 2010.
"The Mishneh Torah is a rare treasure that unites Jewish literary heritage with some of the finest illuminations from the Italian Renaissance," said James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum.
"The Mishneh Torah, a document of great historical and literary importance, and a masterpiece of illumination, will be a major addition to the museum's permanent and encyclopedic collection," said Met Director and CEO Thomas Campbell.
The Torah was the highlight of an auction Monday at Sotheby's from the collection of Michael and Judy Steinhardt. The announcement of the joint purchase was made shortly before the auction.
Sotheby's declined to say how much the two museums paid beyond that it was more than the $2.9 million paid for a Hebrew Bible in 1989 at Sotheby's London, which set an auction record for Judaica.
The Torah had been estimated to bring $4.5 million to $6 million at the auction.
The Steinhardts began collecting objects of Jewish history and culture three decades ago, eventually amassing a trove of manuscripts, textiles and art worth millions of dollars. The 500-piece Judaica material spans thousands of years, from antiquity to modern times, and contains objects from all over the world.