Vellum Scroll of Esther in Silver & Gilt Filigree Scroll Holder
Middle East or possibly India
length: 26.2cm, weight: 259g
This scroll holder comprises a beautifully rendered body in silver filigree and gilded (gold-plated) silver filigree. The filigree is particularly fine and in excellent condition without any losses, dents or repairs.
It encloses a vellum scroll handwritten in black ink in Hebrew lettering. The scroll no longer unwinds – the vellum has become stiff and matted with age, so the value in this piece is in the fine scroll holder rather than the scroll itself.
The scroll holder is unmarked. The precise location of manufacture is difficult to pinpoint. The filigree work might have been made in the Middle East, but this particular type is also very similar to filigree work undertaken in India, such as 19th century Karimnagar. It is not impossible that it was made in India for the local Jewish Indian community. Grafman (1996, p. 252) illustrates a pair of Torah scroll finials made of very similar silver filigree work which are attributed to the ‘Western Ottoman Empire’ of the nineteenth century.
The Book of Esther, also known in Hebrew as ‘the Scroll’ or
Megillah, is a book in the third section or Ketuvim of the Jewish Tanakh (it also appears in the Christian Old Testament.) It tells the story of a Jewish girl in Persia, known as Esther, who becomes queen of Persia and who prevents the genocide of her people. The story is at the centre of the festival of Purim, during which it is read aloud twice- once in the evening, and again the next morning.
Tanakh scrolls, a scroll of Esther is given only one roller, as is the case here, rather than the customary two rollers.
There is some wear to the gilding which helpfully suggests the age of this piece.
Grafman, R., Crowning Glory: Silver Torah Ornaments of the Jewish Museum, New York, The Jewish Museum, 1996.Provenance:
UK art market
Inventory no.: 3320