One of the highlights in the history of the illustrated Haggadah is this edition of 1560, printed in the Duchy of Mantua on the press of the Christian printer Giacomo Rufinelli under the supervision of the shammes of one of the synagogues of Mantua, Isaac ben Samuel Bassan. While it relies heavily on the Prague Haggadah of 1526 (cat. no. 24), it contains some important innovations. Renaissance-style woodcut borders with floral and architectural elements as well as numerous putti, often playing musi- cal instruments, were added to most of the pages, usually to the left or right of the printed text or above it. In addition, a number of illustrations were added. The Haggadah became very popular; a reprint appeared in Mantua in 1568.
As in the Prague Haggadah, the most striking page in the Mantua Haggadah (folio 25r) illustrates the text “Pour out your fury on the nations that do not know you, upon the kingdoms that do not invoke your name” (Psalms 79:6). Compared to the Prague Haggadah, the scene is expanded, showing both the Messiah and the prophet Elijah, who is blowing a shofar. The scene is in accordance with the words of Zechariah 9:9: “Lo, your king is coming to you. He is victorious triumphant, yet humble, riding on an ass, on a donkey foaled by a she-ass.” The warrior depicted at the end of the passage probably symbol- izes the evil nations mentioned in the text. Similar images of the Messiah appear in many Haggadah manuscripts of the fifteenth century. The choice to give it such prominence here may be explained by its messianic content, a comment perhaps on the Italian Jews’ plight in the years directly following the prohibition of the printing of the Talmud in 1553.
An earlier opening in the Haggadah, folios 22v-23r, shows two of the symbolic foods eaten during the seder, bitter herbs and matzah, on the right, and a seder meal, on the left. At the bottom of the left- hand page a decanter and a goblet illustrate the instructions to pour the third and fourth glasses of wine. [es]
Vinograd 1993, Mantua 68; Yaari 1961, no. 18; Yerushalmi 1971, plates 22–28; Yudlov 1997, no. 20.
Mantua, printed by Isaac ben Samuel Bassan on the press of Giacomo Rufinelli, 1560
Paper, folio, 38 leaves, 296 × 204 mm (11.7 × 8 in.), modern half-leather binding.
Braginsky Collection 82