Yosef Zvi Geiger – Collection of Three-Dimensional Sukkah Decorations – Safed, Late 19th or Early 20th Century

Opening: $1,000
Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Sold for: $1,250
Including buyer's premium

Collection of beautiful decorations to be hung in the sukkah, created by Yosef Zvi Geiger (1870-1944). [Safed, late 19th century or early decades of the 20th century].
Cardboard, colored paper, oil pastels, color pencils, watercolor, gold paint, flax fiber, string, and metal wire.
Twelve beautiful ornaments intended as sukkah decorations. These decorations were all drawn, cut, colored, and glued by hand; some were made with stationery paper in secondary use. Including: • Doves with bodies made from paper spheres opening and closing in accordion-like fashion, with metal wire serving as hinge in both edges of sphere. • Clusters of balls made of glistening tinfoil (in gold, silver, and pink) filled with flax fiber. • A chicken (made from two cardboard panels sewn together to enclose a flax filling) along with a brood of chicks in multiple colors.
There are many extant copies of contemporary sukkah poster-decorations that were mostly printed and mass-produced. In contrast, hand-made decorations from this period, such as these – made for personal use and products of individual initiative – are quite rare.
In his (Hebrew) book of memoirs, Yosef Zvi Geiger's grandson, Benjamin Geiger, speaks of his grandfather's sukkah and its unique decorations: "His sukkah was one of the most beautiful in town. Grandpa invested a great deal of effort in [preparing] the decorations, and this went on for many days prior to the holiday. Obviously, we, the grandchildren, were happy to join in the creative and decorative process […] Once the construction phase was completed, the [sukkah] walls would be covered in white and colored sheets, upon which we would hang hand-painted and illustrated plaques that Grandpa personally created every year anew. I especially remember the ‘Ushpizin' plaque which would marvel all observers. In addition, there were the illustrations of the holy sites – Rachel's Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs – as well as papercuts of animals and birds. The ceiling was the main attraction of our sukkah. It was covered with a layer of fragrant myrtle specially brought from Mt. Jarmak [Arabic name for Mt. Meron], and suspended from it were numerous decorations prepared by Grandpa, such as birds made from hollowed-out eggs with bold-colored, glued-on wings and tails that would flap with the slightest breeze; a large, puffed-up mother hen surrounded by a brood of chicks; eagles with special [biblical] verses in their beaks, like ‘And how I bore you on eagles' wings' [Exodus 19:4] and ‘As a vulture that stirs up her nest' [Deuteronomy 32:11], and other [verses]. There were also bottles of oil, and juicy pomegranates. Word of the beautiful sukkah of Reb Yosel Todroses [Yosef Zvi Geiger] spread far and wide and many visitors arrived throughout the holiday to have a look. The grandchildren felt great pride in seeing and hearing the expressions of joy and wonder from all the visitors."
Size varies. Maximum size: 43 cm. Overall good-fair condition. Blemishes, tears, and stains. Repairs with acidic adhesive tape.
Reference: Benjamin Geiger, "One of the Elders of Safed, " Dapei Hayyim, Givatayim, 2011, Hebrew, p. 26.

Yosef Zvi Geiger (1870-1944), native of Safed. One of the most prominent public figures in Safed. He served as general secretary of Safed's "Kolel" institutions, and his home was a regular meeting place for the "gaba'im" (managers) of the various local Kolelim and congregations. The Yishuv's foremost newspapers – including Havatzelet,   HaLevanon, and HaZefirah – regularly published his articles. He also served as a scribe for the Kolelim, and assisted illiterate members of the community by writing letters on their behalf. Geiger was renowned in Safed for being both a gifted scribe and talented painter, entrusted with producing beautifully scripted documents. Among his extant works are splendid "Mizrah" and "Shiviti" plaques, calligraphic and illustrated title pages for "donors books", certificates for donors and greeting letters, and papercuts in the Eastern European style. His contemporaries recall the beautiful "ketubahs" (marriage documents) he produced for the city's couples, decorated with gilt lettering and floral and vegetal designs; and the artworks he created to adorn the walls of the local synagogues, including gilt-lettered plaques. Among his many special talents was his ability to inscribe micrographic texts onto grains of wheat; he could fit several verses from the Bible onto a single grain. In the (Hebrew) book of memoirs by Yosef Zvi's grandson, Benjamin Geiger, entitled "One of the Elders of Safed, " Benjamin writes that his grandfather also specialized in engraving in stone (and inscribed several headstones in Safed). Benjamin also relates that Yosef Zvi was a lover and champion of the Hebrew language, and in his efforts to promote the language he would put up signs with words in Hebrew on the walls of study rooms and yeshivas throughout the town, so that children would get to know these words. He personally taught the language to his children and grandchildren, ensuring they would become entirely fluent.

Jewish Ceremonial Art
Jewish Ceremonial Art