Uncovering the Oppenheimer Siddur: using scientific analysis to reveal the production process of a medieval illuminated Hebrew manuscript

Suzanne Irene Wijsman, Sarah Neate, Sotiria Kogou, Haida Liang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The aim of this research was to use non-invasive scientific analysis to uncover evidence of the planning process and relationship between pigments used in text copying and artwork production in the Oppenheimer Siddur (Oxford Bodleian Library MS Opp. 776), an illuminated 15th-century Hebrew prayer book with the largest number of illustrations of musicians of any extant Hebrew manuscript. This manuscript’s colophon states that it was copied by its scribe-owner for personal family use but does not confirm who was responsible for the artwork. An in-house developed remote spectral imaging system (PRISMS) with 10 filters spanning the spectral range from 400 to 880 nm was modified for close-range application to image two of the folios to examine the sequence of production, identify the pigments and compare the materials used for the illumination and the text. Optical microscopy and Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy in the attenuated total reflection mode (FTIR-ATR) were used directly on the folios to complement the spectral imaging data in binding media and pigment identification. The results revealed close matches in reflectance spectra for the colorants and inks used in both text copying and illuminations, suggesting that the same mixture of colorants and inks have been used. The evidence from this study supports the hypothesis that the scribe applied pigments for the manuscript’s artwork at the same time he did some of the scribal work, which has implications for understandings of Jewish medieval visual cultures and the musical iconography in this manuscript.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages15
JournalHeritage Science
Volume6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2018

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