Biblical Archaeology Review 44:6, November/December 2018

Strata: Precious Torah Manuscript

It is a rare occurrence that, after centuries of art collecting, a major Biblical manuscript appears in an auction house. The Getty Museum’s announcement last July was all the more exciting because their latest acquisition involved the Rothschild Pentateuch, one of the most important illuminated Hebrew Bibles of all ages.

Created by an unknown artist in France in 1296, the Rothschild Pentateuch contains the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The text is divided by lavish illumination into weekly sections so that the entire Torah would be read over the course of a year. And it is the vividness and unbounded ingenuity of its decorative program—which includes full human figures—that make this parchment manuscript one of the most elaborate Hebrew Bibles to have survived from the Middle Ages.

Likely now the most precious manuscript of the Getty collection, the Rothschild Pentateuch is making its debut at the Getty Center in Los Angeles in the exhibit Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an, which is scheduled to run from August 7, 2018, to February 3, 2019.

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