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The Umberto Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art was founded in 1983 in order to preserve, collect and display objects and traditions of Jewish people who lived in Italy from the Renaissance period through present.

The Umberto Nahon Museum’s Collection

Despite the fact that Jewish culture has been active in Italy’s history for more than 2000 years, the most intense period when Jews had the biggest impact was between 15th century until the 20th century when more and more objects and decorations were made with Jewish contents. Our website www.jija.org presents the most important and common occupations of Jewish people from Italy. These occupations are presented more specific at The Umberto Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art:

  • Metalwork;
  • Textiles;
  • Woodwork;
  • Manuscripts and Prints;
  • Miscellaneous;

Metalwork

During the 17th century, the silver objects production was the most developed occupation. Because of the fact that most Jewish people from Italy were very rich, they ordered a lot of silver artifacts to non-Jewish artists, as known as Christian silversmiths.  The Jewish goldsmiths from Rome had very restrictive measures because of the Papal protocols, while the Jewish silversmiths were allowed to practice their job at the beginning of the 18th century.

The Jewish metalwork style, even if it was made by a Jew or by a Christian silversmith, was reflecting the Baroque or the Rocco style in a very original and illusionistic way.

One of the most common trademarks of Italian Jewish people was the insertion of separate golden ornaments. This special method of metalworking is present in a lot of masterpieces like The Tablets of Law, The Holy Ark, The High Priest’s Mitre, The Incense Altar, The Fire Altar, The Menorah, A Censer, A Levitical Ewer, A priestly Garment.

Textiles

Most of the city – states from Italy were the most popular producers of high quality textiles in the 17th century. That’s why the textile industry was one of the most common occupations for Jewish people from Italy. Furthermore, this occupation was one of the few Jewish figurative arts which Jewish people from Italy were free to practice during the medieval period.

The most common embroiderers, which can be seen at The Umberto Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art too are: Parokhet, Mappah(Thorah cover), The Olivetti – Montefiore Torah Curtain, Torah Mantle.

Woodwork

During the medieval period, all the Italian synagogues were built by the most common and used material available at that moment: the wood. The interior was entirely covered with wood, all the walls were carved in wood, the benches were made of wood.

In comparison with the textile industry, there were few Jews who mastered the art of woodcarving.

Manuscripts and Prints

The Umberto Nahon Museum of Italian Jewish Art includes hundreds of texts written Jewish people who lived in Italy. The most of them are extraordinarily decorated.

 

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