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Object of the Month - July 2014

Ketubah (Marriage Contract)

Ketubah (Marriage Contract) - Venice, Italy 1787 - Parchment, watercolor, gold wash, ink, 34.23

The ketubah, a Jewish wedding contract, spells out the obligations of the husband to his wife throughout the marriage.  The contract represented a legal document and had to be understood by both the bride and groom. The document is therefore written in Aramaic, which is the vernacular of Talmudic law.  To symbolize the sacred act of marriage the practice of writing an illuminated contract has been customary since the first century BCE and the ketubah is traditionally read aloud during the wedding ceremony.

This particularly beautiful ketubah was created in Venice, Italy in 1787 for a wedding that took place on Friday, 13th Tammuz 5547 (June 29, 1747).  This year, in accordance with the Hebrew lunar calendar, the 13th of Tammuz falls on July 11, making this a fitting object of the month. The groom was Abraham Joseph, son of Menahem Zevi Sanguinetti from the town of Reggio.  Abraham signed the ketubah in Italian: “Abram Iseppo Sanguinetti”.   The bride was Dolcetta, daughter of the late Joel Foà.  The decoration of this ketubah is rich in both detail and color with a floral design at the top and a brick and column motif that frame the text.  The inscriptions are typical for ketubot of this period: “be-simana tava uvimasala”(good omen and good luck) to the bride and groom (above the columns); and verses from Psalms 133:1-2a and Ruth 4:11b-12a (surrounding the text). The ketubah also documents the bride’s dowry, which in this case included coinage, jewelry and clothing.