From the calling of Moses to the crossing of the Red Sea, the drama of the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt is presented in The Rylands Haggadah.
The Haggadah is one of the central texts of Rabbinic Judaism. Its use on the first nights of Passover by Jews all over the world from Alaska to Zimbabwe continues a tradition reaching back into antiquity. The so-called Rylands Haggadah is a masterpiece from 14th century Catalonian Spain. During the last eight months it has been painstakingly conserved in order to preserve the pigment and gold, which was starting to flake. Comprising 57 lavishly decorated vellum leaves, the treasure was acquired by Enriqueta Rylands in 1901, as part of the world famous Crawford collection of manuscripts. Normally it resides at the John Rylands University Library at Manchester University.
However, from March till September 2012 the precious “Rylands Haggadah” will be exhibited at the Metropolitan in New York. Each month, the Haggadah will be open to a different page, affording visitors the exceptional opportunity to follow the artist’s telling of the Exodus story. Works of art from the Museum’s own collection, made for Christian use but depicting the saga of the Hebrew people, will suggest the larger, medieval context of biblical storytelling in which the Haggadah was created.This is the third in a series of installations focusing on one masterwork of Hebrew manuscript illumination from a national or international collection. The previous installations featured the Washington Haggadah (on view April 5–July 4, 2011) and Lisbon’s Hebrew Bible (on view November 22, 2011–January 16, 2012).
“This manuscript is one of the finest Haggadot in the world. It is important for its intrinsic beauty and for various textual details, but it is also a key source for the study of the illumination of Hebrew manuscripts in general. It shines a light on the tradition of Biblical illustration among the Jews of the Middle Ages and on the cross-fertilisation between Jewish and non-Jewish artists within the medium of manuscript illumination, said Rylands Collections and Research Support Manager John Hodgson recently to Manchester University News.
The installation in New York is made possible by The David Berg Foundation.