Decorated Esther Scroll with the Blessings over the Megillah / Elaborate Silver Case with Family Emblem – Rome, 19th Century

Opening: $25,000
Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000
Sold for: $32,500
Including buyer's premium

Decorated Esther scroll, including the blessings over the Megillah reading recited prior to and following the traditional reading of the scroll on Purim. Housed in a decorated silver case created by the silversmith Angelo Giannotti, Rome. Scroll: [ca. 1800]. Silver case: [first half of 19th century].
Ink and paint on parchment; silver (marked in several places with city mark and maker's mark), cast, turned, pierced and engraved; gilt.
Esther scroll; inscribed in Sephardic-Italian script on four parchment membranes. Text of Book of Esther inscribed in 46 columns, averaging 13 rows per column. Just before the main body of text is a single column inscribed with the blessings over the megillah reading. Following the main body are additional five columns inscribed with the blessing recited after the Megillah reading, followed by the liturgical poem "Korei Megillah" by Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra. The first column is left blank. The text is enclosed within decorative greenish-golden rectangular frames. Similarly colored in greenish gold are the letters of the word "Barukh" ("Blessed") at the beginning and end of the scroll, as well as the letters of the opening words to each of the verses of "Korei Megillah".
The scroll is housed within a cylindrical silver case whose surface is decorated with vegetal patterns; toward the top and bottom, the cylinder in encircled by slender, elegant decorative bands. The case is surmounted by a serrated crown with a dome-like ornament at its center. This is in turn surmounted by an additional, smaller crown with more numerous serrations and with a similar dome at its center. An elegant ornament in the shape of a rampant lion grasping a palm frond, made of cast and gilt silver, surmounts the center of the upper crown. This ornament is most probably meant to represent the emblem of Rome's Di Castro family; it also appears on an embroidered textile (mappa) donated in 1699 to Rome's Scola Nuova synagogue, as well as on the family's ketubot (marriage contracts), on an additional Esther scroll (in the Israel Museum Collection); and on several spice containers from Rome dating from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The silversmith Angelo Giannotti was active in Rome circa 1815-65. He created a variety of silver articles, including many candlesticks, hanging lamps, a goblet, and other items. Among his works are a small number of Judaica items, including a silver binding dated circa 1840 (see Sotheby's, December 13, 2006, item no. 81) and a spice container (see "Arte ebraica a Roma e nel Lazio", p. 104, item no. 82) with the emblem of the Di Castro family at the top. The present Esther scroll is therefore part of a very short list of Judaica items created by this silversmith, and, to the best of our knowledge, is the only extant Esther scroll case produced by him.
For Esther scrolls similar in design to this one – some of them dated to the 18th century – see the Center for Jewish Art (CJA), item no. 34639 (Collection of Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme [mahJ], Paris); The Israel Museum Collection, item no. B39.11.6484; the René Braginsky Collection (formerly in the Furman Collection), scroll no. 94. Interestingly, unlike the three Esther scrolls mentioned above which are housed in polygonal silver cases, the present scroll is housed in a cylindrical silver case, a fact which sets it apart from other known Italian silver Esther scroll cases from that period. On spice containers from Rome surmounted by the emblematic ornament of a rampant lion grasping a palm frond, see: Sotheby's, June 5, 2019, item no. 123; Sotheby's, December 15, 2022, item no. 109; The Israel Museum Collection (appears on an Israeli postage stamp dated 1990 and titled [Hebrew] "Mo'adim 5755"). See also enclosed material.

Height of silver case (including handle and surmounting ornament): 27 cm. Overall good condition. Possibly missing a tiny handle originally part of the silver piece sewn onto the first membrane. Height of parchment: 8 cm. Good condition. Some stains to scroll, occasional spots of faded ink in text and faded paint in decorative rectangular frames.

1. Daniela Di Castro and Filomena Del Regno, Arte ebraica a Roma e nel Lazio, Palombi, Rome, 1994, p. 104 (item no. 82), p. 154.
2. Jacobo Furman, Treasures of Jewish art: From the Jacobo and Asea Furman Collection of Judaica, Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, New York, 1997, pp. 210-11.
3. Doretta Davanzo Poli, Olga Melasecchi, and Amedeo Spagnoletto, eds., Antiche mappòt romane, il prezioso archivio tessile del Museo Ebraico di Roma, Campisano Editore, Rome, 2017, item no. 60.
Provenance: Private collection.

Esther Scrolls and Parchment Manuscripts