Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rabbinic Portraits

There is a discussion on the always-wonderful-blog On The Main Line regarding a portrait attributed to Rashi. Someone MENACHEM BUTLER raised the well-known collection of famous Rabbinic personalities which appeared on an edition of the Shulhan Arukh. The edition to which they are referring to is the Shulhan Arukh printed in Mantua in 1721-23. This edition includes the standard commentaries as well as the commentary of R. Gur Areyeh Finzi (d. 1753). On the title page Finzi (or the printer) included Rabbis in the Shulhan Arukh, R. Karo, R. Isserles, and Rabbis whose works form the basis of the Shulhan Arukh (although not all) - Rashi, Rambam, and Maharil, as well as R. Finzi's portrait. As you can see below these are not the most flattering portraits done (that of course doesn't speak to whether they are correct, although it is unlikely that one could produce a portait in some cases hundred of years after the death of a person) it appears some were offended at the way in which they were depicted. Thus, these appear only on the title page for Orah Hayyim but not the other volumes. The same background was used, the gate, just the portraits are absent. Additionally, it is worth pointing out that some focus on the depiction of the Rambam for whether he had peyos as it seems in this portrait he may have (either that or long hair).
Title page of the Shulhan Arukh with the Commentary of the Gur Areyeh, Mantau, 1721

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