Auction 42 - Rare and Important Items

Embroidered Sabbath Tablecloth – Jerusalem, 1909

Opening: $3,000
Sold for: $4,000
Including buyer's premium
An embroidered Sabbath tablecloth. Jerusalem, 1909.
[Linen] and pure wool threads.
A Sabbath tablecloth embroidered with images of the holy sites and the Western Wall; belongs to a group of tablecloths created in Jerusalem in the 19th century (with minor changes). In the central panel, within a circular frame embroidered in bright colors, the artist featured schematically the Western Wall with "Midrash Shlomo" and the Temple on both its sides. The image is accompanied by inscriptions: "Midrash Shlomo", "Mekom HaMikdash" and "Kotel Ma'aravi". Surrounding the central image, appear the inscriptions: "Hagai HaNavi", "Avner Ben Ner", "R' Meir B"H", "Kalba Savu'a", "Shmuel Han", “Yoav ben Tzuria", "Yad Avshalom", "Zecharya HaNavi" and "Mea'arat HaMachpela". A stylized lion chained to a tree, is embroidered between the graves and above it the inscription "Rav Ha-Ari" – symbolizing the grave of the Holy Ari. In the outer four corners are featured four additional graves of holy figures and the "Shalom Aleichem" liturgy is embroidered on the borders. Lace edging is sewn to the tablecloth.
It is believed that this tablecloth is one of a group of tablecloths designed in Jerusalem, in the Old City, by Simche Janiwer (1846-1910). Janiwer was a cantor and an artist creating ceremonial objects. He was famous in Jerusalem for the pair of lions sculpture positioned on the "Machne Yehuda" police station building. The scheme which Janiwer uses, appearing on objects created by other artists as well, is related to images of pilgrimage which explains the appearance of graves and the holy sites. In 1967, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, recorded a testimony from one of Janiwer’s customers about his work:
"Mrs. Tzvia Zilberstein, born in the Old City, daughter of Abraham Rokeach, at the age of eighty, says that
Simche Janiwer [helped] all women in the Old City who wanted to embroider, and he painted the design in it (sic) according to her request… and every woman bought threads in the ‘German shop’. [She] remembers that her mother bought good Russian linen and delivered it to Simche Janiwer, but it was too small to cover matsah, and it was hard for her mother to follow his pattern. [She] also remembers that her neighbor, an Oriental, embroidered on a frame and held [the] threads down with a knitting needle. Simche Janiwer was an artist [who] painted free hand for embroidery, and worked it over with small dots to guide [the] stiches. Every bride had her tephillin bag designed by him to be embroidered for the groom; he also painted white and transparent aprons for married women to wear on going to Synagogue. When canvas embroidery came in, he designed [a] kotel ma’aravi (Western Wall) and girls filled it in and hung it as [a] picture in the home… cloths were made for shluchim such as Hatam Sofer of Pressburg to raise money.”
From:”A Group of Embroidered Cloths from Jerusalem”, by Richard Barnett. In: Journal of Jewish Art, vol. 2 pp. 28-39.
124X116 cm. Fair condition, large wine stains mainly on the upper part of the tablecloth. Black and brown colors which originally were not water proof were transferred to the tablecloth after washing. Several holes to lace borders and some unraveled spots. The tablecloth consists of two parts sewn together, with no mending.
For detailed list of tablecloths of this type and for bibliography see:
Sotheby’s catalog: A treasured Legacy: The Michael and Judy Steinhardt Judaica Collection. NY, 2013. Item no. 302, page 456.
Rare and Important Items