A Nostalgic Filter: A University of Pittsburgh Exhibition

Sarajevo Haggadah

Sarajevo, National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, B-H. zem. muz. 9313, olim. 9034

Originally commissioned in Barcelona, Spain around 1350, this Haggadah may have been a wedding present for members of two leading Jewish families, Shoshan and Elazar; their respective coats of arms appear prominently on the same page as the emblem of the city of Barcelona. A note added to the text in 1609 states that the book “does not contain anything directed against the Church,” suggesting it came under scrutiny by the Inquisition when efforts to suppress heresy became a pretext for the persecution of Muslims and Jews in Europe. Since the late 19th century it has been considered a great treasure of the city of Sarajevo, saved twice from destruction during 20th-century wars that wracked the city.

Its extensive cycle of 69 illuminations display scenes from Genesis and the Exodus from Egypt, reflecting the use of the book to tell this story, as well as depictions of medieval Jewish families departing from a synagogue and celebrating the Passover Seder. In this way the images link the contemporary world of its original viewers to the time of the biblical past. Unusually, the book includes depictions of Black Africans, seen in the representation of the Ishmaelites and also the depiction of an enslaved woman at the Passover Seder. The latter figure has been the source of much discussion in recent years, her presence reflecting both the diversity and the fraught racial hierarchies of medieval Spain.
To the best of our knowledge, this manuscript has yet to be fully digitized and made available online. If you would like to bring an open-access digitization to our attention, please contact the UAG at Pitt.

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