Boccardi Hebrew illuminated manuscript

The Jewish community of Florence  flourished in the 15th-century, their position closely linked to the fortunes of the de’ Medici.  Lorenzo il magnifico was their protector; he encouraged Jewish scholarship and scholars. It is, then, unsurprising that Jewish patrons of this Mahzor (Jewish holiday prayerbook) solicited an artist who worked for Lorenzo for this luxury manuscript.  It is magnificently illuminated in the characteristic style of Giovanni di Giuliano Boccardi, known as Boccardino il vecchio (Boccardino the Old, 1460-1529).

 The Mahzor

Containing prayers for the entire Jewish liturgical year, the Mahzor  includes: blessing of the Name of the Lord; a hundred blessings to be recited daily; blessing for the Lord; the recitation of Shema and prayers to be said before retiring to bed; for the Sabbath;  for the blessing for a new moon;  for Hanukkah with extracts from the Book of Esther; prayers to be said before reading the Megillah; for Passover;  before the fast of Tammuz, followed by prayers for the fast of the Ninth of Av and relating to the Book of Lamentations, followed by prayers and Psalms; prayers for Rosh Hashanah; for Yom Kippur; for Sukkoth; Tsam’a Nafshi, the 12th-century poem by Abraham ibn Ezra, the author’s name picked out acrostically in the margin; and commentary on the death of Moses in Hebrew and Aramaic.


While Christian Florentines illuminated Hebrew manuscripts, this Mahzor appears to be the only example  illuminated by Boccardino.  His work dominates the first sixty-eight leaves, subsequent illuminations were completed by followers or members of his workshop after Boccadino’s designs.  While there are other Hebrew manuscripts illuminated by Christian Florentines, this Mahzor is the only example we know illuminated by Boccardino.  It is considered one of the last representatives of the golden age of Florentine renaissance illumination.


The Mahzor is an illuminated manuscript in Hebrew on vellum from Tuscany (likely Florence), c. 1490s, offered by Christie’s – Paris on May 11, 2012. It was estimated to sell for €400,000 – €600,000 ($540,000 – $800,000).


Price Realized

€1,857,000($2,401,422) – Christie’s

– Taken from BookTryst, go to read more details and to view more images.

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