The Art of Matrimony: Thirty Splendid Marriage Contracts from the Jewish Theological Seminary Library

March 11 - June 26, 2011

Featuring 30 marriage contracts (ketubbot) from around the globe and dating from the medieval period through the present, this exhibition illuminates the artistic relationship between Jewish communities and the countries in which they lived as well as marriage customs and patterns of patronage.

Installation view of The Art of Matrimony: Thirty Splendid Marriage Contracts from the Jewish Theological Seminary Library at the Jewish Museum, New York. Photo by Bradford Robotham.

For over two millennia the ketubbah (marriage contract) has been an integral part of Jewish marriages. Ever since the second century, rabbinic authorities have attributed extreme importance to this marriage document which typically records the bridegroom’s obligations toward his bride in the event of divorce or death. Thirty ketubbot from the world-renowned collection of The Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary, dating from the twelfth through the twenty-first centuries and reflecting the geographical diversity of Jewish settlement, are featured in this exhibition.

Found in the homes of married Jews, whether wealthy or poor, scholar or layman, in the West or in the East, ketubbot provide a wealth of information concerning the artistic creativity, cultural interactions and social history of the Jewish communities in which they were created. They offer a fascinating look at the lives of individual couples, varied marriage customs, and the spread of artistic styles through commerce and trade. By examining the names of the betrothed, dates, geographic locale, special conditions and monetary details contained within the text, the modern viewer can glean additional details about patronage, folklore and the social and financial status of Jewish families from around the world.

Funding for this exhibition was made possible, in part, through the generosity of Barbara and Benjamin Zucker.