During the Dutch Golden Age in Amsterdam, the engraver Salom Italia, a Sephardic Jew born in Mantua in 1619, invented a new style of decoration for the scrolls that told the biblical story of Esther. This tale of Jewish exile in ancient Persia still appeals to the imagination: the salvation of the Jews by the clever Queen Esther is celebrated each year by Jews around the world on the joyous holiday of Purim.
Salom Italia’s Megillahs are lavishly illustrated with triumphal arches, pictures of the main characters, narrative scenes, and vignettes with Dutch landscapes. His original decorations reflect the successful integration of Spanish and Portuguese Jews into their new homeland, the Netherlands. Even today, Italia’s Megillahs are coveted collectors’ items. Now, for the first time, six of these world-class masterpieces have been brought together, accompanied by the work of Dutch contemporaries who inspired Salom Italia.
Works such as Lastman’s Triumph of Mordechai and etchings by Rembrandt are exhibited to show how much the book of Esther was part of the Jewish-Christian tradition in the Time of Salom Italia.