Among the most prized treasures of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America Library is the magnificently illuminated Prato Haggadah. Written in Spain (circa 1300) on fine parchment, this 700 year-old Haggadah was left partially unfinished.
Curiosity about this book—one of the very few surviving examples of this extraordinary art form—prompted a long backward look at medieval practice. What pigments did the
artist use and how did he make them? What did the Prato Haggadah look like when its paint, calligraphy, and gold were still fresh and dazzling to the eye? To find out, the curators of the Jewish Theological Seminary asked Barbara Wolff to undertake the task of making all the materials and pigments used 700 years ago and recreating two of its pages.
The materials, techniques and stages the 14th century artist would have used to illuminate this manuscript is described in great detail in the film entitled "Illuminating History."
The incomplete pages and the finished pages as they would have looked 700 years ago.
(bottom) Some of the stills from the film Illuminating History.