Auction 93 Part 1 - Manuscripts, Prints and Engravings, Objects and Facsimiles, from the Gross Family Collection, and Private Collections

Portrait of Menasseh ben Israel by Salom Italia, 1642

Opening: $1,200
Sold for: $3,750
Including buyer's premium

Portrait of Menasseh ben Israel. Engraving by Salom Italia, [the Netherlands], 1642.

This portrait of Menasseh ben Israel is encircled with the Latin inscription: “Menasseh ben Israel Theologus et Philisophus Hebraeus / Peregrinando Quaerimus.” Underneath the portrait is a poem – also in Latin – singing his praises.

R. Menasseh Ben Israel (1604–1657), French–born rabbi, preacher and statesman, descendant of a family of Marranos from Portugal; founder of the first Hebrew press in Amsterdam. Well–versed in languages and secular sciences. He was very active on behalf of the Jews in the Diaspora, and the Crypto Jews of Spain and Portugal. He played an important role in the readmission of the Jews to England, after their expulsion in 1290 on the orders of Edward I.

R. Menasseh Ben Israel entertained ties with scholars, statesmen and artists of his times, including Rembrandt, who portrayed him in the present etching, and prepared several engravings for R. Menasseh Ben Israel's book 'Even Yekarah' (1655). Rembrandt, whose workshop was located in close proximity with the Portuguese synagogue in a neighborhood which was home to many of Amsterdam's Jews, produced numerous works with Jewish and Biblical motifs, and several portraits of members of the Amsterdam Jewish community.

The copper engraver Salom ben Mordechai Italia (also Italiae and d’Italia), who moved to the Netherlands from Mantua, Italy, was noted mostly as a creator and decorator of “ketubot” (Jewish marriage contracts) and Esther scrolls. However, he also gained fame thanks to this particular portrait of his of Menasseh ben Israel, as well as his portrait of Rabbi Jacob Judah Leon Templo. He died in the Netherlands, roughly 1655.

Approx. 18.5X13 cm. Very good condition. Handwritten notations on verso. Two small strips of paper glued onto upper margin on verso.

Provenance: The Gross Family Collection, Tel Aviv, No. 117.011.014.

Calendars, Braodsides and Posters – Graphics and Prints