This week stroumjewishstudies.org is inaugurating a new occasional blog series, “What’s that?” We ask experts in Jewish Studies to identify an object (a text, ritual item, artwork, etc.), locate its historical context, and explain why it is significant for understanding Jewish history and culture.
Expert: Professor Shalom Sabar, art historian and folklorist
Object: Miniature from a manuscript of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah. Original in Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cod. Rossiana 498.
Origin: Northern Italy
Year: ca. 1470
Why does it matter? This is the opening page for Sefer Zemanim (the Book of Holidays). It shows the holidays of Sukkot and Purim, characterized by mixed dancing and costumes. This is the earliest depiction of people wearing costumes on Purim, and in fact it dates to approximately the time this tradition is first mentioned in rabbinic literature (or perhaps even earlier than the written sources).
Click here to read “Purim Unmasked,” an interview with Shalom Sabar about unusual Purim folklore around the world.
Click here to view a gallery of illuminated megillot (Esther Scrolls).