Auction 89 - Rare and Important Items

Large Collection of Simchat Torah Flags – Europe, Israel and the United States, 20th Century

Opening: $3,500
Estimate: $5,000 - $8,000
Sold for: $4,375
Including buyer's premium

Large, high-quality collection of colorful Simchat Torah flags. Israel, Europe, and the United States, 20th century.
Some 230 Simchat Torah flags, featuring diverse forms of Jewish and Zionist imagery. The majority of the flags are notable for their naïve style, and were clearly designed by amateur artists; but the collection also comprises flags designed by recognized artists. These include beautiful paper flags (as well as a flag made of fabric) from the Judaica workshop of Rosa Freudenthal, Breslau, Germany, 1930s; the original draft sketch for a flag by David Gilboa, along with printed copies of this flag as well as other flags by the artist; and flags by artists Zvi Livni, M. Arie (Arie Moscovitch), R. Zavadsky, and others.
Most of the flags in the collection date from the 1930s till the late 20th century. The later the flag, the more specifically the imagery addresses its target audience: for instance, flags meant for the Haredi community consistently feature traditional images in a direct continuation of Jewish folk art – Torah arks, lions, Torah crowns, emblems of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, Moses and Aaron, and, in particular, boys and men dancing while clutching Torah scrolls – and contain no references to the establishment of the State of Israel or other related current events. In contrast, flags associated with the public that identifies with the Zionist ethos tend to express this identification through a mixture of religious scenes and symbols on one hand, and nationalistically-oriented images on the other: dancing in the synagogue with Torah scrolls, alongside boys and girls holding up flags of Israel; sites in the Land of Israel that bear significance either from a religious standpoint or because of their historical role in Jewish nation-building; plowed farm fields; and other such themes. Noteworthy are the flags printed following the Six-Day War (1967), which express prevailing contemporary national sentiments regarding the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem and its holy sites, and hopes for peace in the near future. Some of these flags bear such images as scenes of the City of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, Cave of the Patriarchs, and more; tanks, fighter jets, and soldiers; and portraits of prominent Israeli military figures like Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin. Others among them may also feature doves, olive branches, and other expressions of faith in an imminent end to war and the dawn of a new era of peace in the Middle East.
In addition, a significant number of flags in the collection represent promotional material from various Israeli election campaigns, anything from flags of the Shas party bearing portraits of great rabbis to flags of municipal political parties. Some flags were printed on behalf of educational institutions. Others served as advertisements for private companies and government-owned corporations such as Adanim Mortgage Bank, Israel Railways, and Tnuva. One particular flag ventures into popular culture; it features Popeye and Olive Oyl.
A small number of flags in the collection were printed in the United States; these are mostly distinguished by a higher quality of graphics, and a more subtle Zionist message.
The majority of flags in the collection are printed on paper; roughly 20 flags (dating from ca. the 1980s and 1990s) are printed on plastic sheets; and a few flags are printed on fabric or made of rigid plastic.
An additional pair of items in the collection are a printing block for a flag, along with a sample of the flag produced with it (USA, ca. mid-20th century).
Size and condition vary. Overall good condition. Several flags pasted onto paper.

Also enclosed: Lag Ba'Omer flags; sukkah decoration posters (both hand-made and printed); Purim poster and other posters; flag for the occasion of "Birkat HaChama" ("Blessing of the Sun, " 1981); "Shana Tova" greeting cards and postcards featuring Simchat Torah scenes and showing flags for the holiday; a "Degel Zion" ("Flag of Zion") printed for the Israeli ceremony of Hakhel in 1952, with the (Hebrew) Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel printed on it; a flag marking the anniversary of the rescue of the Belzer Rebbe and his brother, 1984; and more.

Reference: Nitza Behroozi Baroz (curator and editor), "The Flags of Simchat Torah: From Popular Jewish Art to Hebrew-Israeli Culture, " exhibition catalogue, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv, 2012.
Provenance: Collection of Dr. Haim Grossman.

Jewish Ceremonial Art
Jewish Ceremonial Art