This rare ketubbah commemorates a wedding within the small but prominent Jewish community of the town of Bayonne, located in southwestern France near the Atlantic coast. The community was founded by anusim who fled the Portuguese inquisition in the sixteenth century and settled in select towns in the south of France. At first, the merchants among the anusim were prohibited from dealing in retail trade. In 1636 several Jewish families were expelled from the town. The Jews of Bayonne were not permitted to openly and officially practice Judaism before 1723.
The decoration of this ketubbah reflects styles and designs common among Western European Sep- hardim. In most communities, aside from those in Holland and Italy, depictions of human figures were avoided, while floral motifs and diverse decorative designs were emphasized. These contracts were created primarily by Sephardic folk artists who executed a variety of other works for their communi- ties, such as Esther scrolls, Passover Haggadot, and Omer calendars. The present example is decorated only with ink, creating a sharp contrast between the clear white background and the emphatic black ink. The mostly floral designs are dappled with dots and tiny lines that create the look of a copper engraving. Appearing at the top center is a large crown with seven knobs that alludes to the accompanying inscription, “A wife of noble character is her hus- band’s crown” (Proverbs 12:4).
Direct references to the bridal couple are found in the carefully selected verses that fill the borders of the ketubbah. Written in elegant, square Sephardic script, the inscriptions relate to two topics: wedding ideals and blessings to the bridal couple. Thus, the biblical verses along the right border are dedicated to the bridegroom, David Enriques, and extoll the figure of David (“David was successful in all his undertakings, for the Lord was with him.” [I Samuel 18:14, and I Chronicles 12:19]), while those at left are for the bride, Rachel Enriques Da Costa, and high- light her beauty and good qualities (“Many women have done well, but you surpass them all.” [Proverbs 31:29, and Song of Songs 6:9]). Moreover, in a verse extolling Yael (Judges 5:24), the scribe ingeniously replaced the name of the biblical heroine with that of Rachel: “Most blessed of women be Rachel.”
Bayonne, Wednesday, 1 Tevet 5456 (7 December 1695)
Bridegroom: David, son of Daniel Coelho Enriques (or Henriques)
Bride: Dona Rachel, daughter of Abraham Enriques Da Costa
Dowry: 30,000 litrin, French coinage (livre); increment: 15,000 litrin; total obligation: 45,000 French litrin.
Parchment 645 × 617 mm (25.4 × 24.3 in.)
Braginsky Collection Ketubbah 91