Library > Reading Corner > This Spectacular Italian Scroll of Esther Celebrates 400 Years

This Spectacular Italian Scroll of Esther Celebrates 400 Years

​Take a glimpse into the Scroll of Esther of Ferrera, Italy, whose magnificent illustrations shows the expected fate of anyone who threatens to harm the people of Israel.

 

 

 Esther Ferrera Scroll. Click here to view the item

 

The Scroll of Esther is different from other the other books in the Hebrew Bible, not only because God is not mentioned at all in its pages, but also because the Halacha (Jewish religious law) allows the Book of Esther to be illustrated without rendering it  unkosher. Thanks to this there are dozens of illustrated scrolls of the Book of Esther.

 

 

The Banquet of Queen Vashti from the Esther Scroll of Ferrera. Click here to view the item 

 Among the treasures within the collections of the National Library of Israel, there is a unique Book of Esther, which this year celebrates 400 years of existence. What is particularly interesting about the scroll, inscribed in 1617, are the illustrations that adorn it. They seem almost cartoonish, and the scribe and illustrator, Moshe Ben Avraham Pascarol, was not afraid to look directly at the atrocities described in the scroll, and accentuate them, in order to achieve a dramatic effect. Many of the violent scenes, such as the decapitation of Vashti as well as the hanging of Haman and his sons, are graphically illustrated on the pages. The ideas of modesty are also apparent. While the violence and colorful gore are celebrated, the sexual aspect of the Book of Esther is completely downplayed.

 

 

The Beheading of Vashti. Click here to view the item

 

Each illustration ascribed to a verse in the Book of Esther illuminates it in a certain light. But one illustration is known to be inspired from other sources beyond the Scroll of Esther; in the illustration, there are three children asked to interpret what is happening, and there are three additional verses, taken from all other books in the Bible. The third verse is the most telling - "I will wreak My vengeance on Edom through My people Israel" (Ezekiel 25:14).

 

Haman arrays Mordecai. The children interpret. Click here to view the item

 

This statement reveals a deliberate message from the illustrator. Traditionally the nation of Edom is linked not with Persia (the kingdom mentioned in the Book of Esther), but with the Roman Empire, and all Christendom. Since the scroll is Italian and influenced with paintings of figures from the Italian Renaissance, the hidden message of the scribe and illustrator was most likely there for the Jews of Italy. The message is probably to take heart, for in every generation and in every place where the people of Israel reside – the Almighty will avenge any assault on them.

 

 

The Coronation of Queen Esther. Click here to view the item

 

 

 The Hanging of the Sons of Haman. Click here to view the item ​