A lavishly illustrated 14th-century Catalonian haggadah from the collection of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, England, will be displayed in the Gallery for Western European Art from 1050 to 1300 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning March 27. A haggadah is the book used at the Passover seder, the ritual meal that commemorates the exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egypt. Works of art from the Museum’s own collection, made for Christian use, but depicting the saga of the Hebrew people, will suggest the larger, medieval context of biblical storytelling in which the Haggadah was created.
Images in the Rylands Haggadah depict episodes from the exodus from Egypt—such as the well-known Biblical stories of the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea—and also depict medieval Catalonian preparations for the seder.
Each month, the Haggadah will be open to a different page, affording visitors the exceptional opportunity to follow the artist’s telling of the Exodus story.
On April 11, in the Museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, Marc Michael Epstein, Professor of Religion at Vassar College will deliver a lecture on the religious and political meaning of the manuscript. Gallery talks will focus on the new set of illustrations that can be seen each month.
The presentation of the Rylands Haggadah at the Metropolitan Museum is the third in a series of stellar loans, each of which focuses on a single, illuminated medieval Hebrew manuscript. One by one, a Hebrew manuscript from an American or European library is showcased in the medieval art galleries of the Metropolitan Museum’s main building, set in the context of related treasures from the Museum’s collection. The previous loan, shown in winter 2011–12, was Lisbon’s Hebrew Bible from the National Library of Portugal.
This series is made possible by The David Berg Foundation.
These notable installations build upon an ongoing program of important loans of Hebrew manuscripts from the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
Conservation of the manuscript was made possible by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust (U.K.) and Dorothy Tapper Goldman.
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March 27, 2012