Purim Plaque, 1863
acquired from the Treuhandstelle (Nazi Trustee Office in charge of overseeing confiscated Jewish assets during the Second World War)
silk, wool, cotton, appliqué beads, metal thread, bullion, lace, natural products (fish scales, blades of grass, hair, herbs, etc.), embroidery using full, Gobelin and cross stitches, ink painting
size: 600 x 660 mm
restored by Š. Dejmalová in 2006
inv. no. ŽMP 082.184
In the latter half of the nineteenth century in particular, memorial plaques with various iconographic motifs from the Old Testament were among the popular homemade products made by Jewish women and girls, among others. This plaque, which was probably used as a decorative wall painting, depicts Queen Esther in front of King Ahasuerus surrounded by 16 other decorative features with various motifs (animals, playing cards, landscapes and flowers). It has a surprising range of skilfully used materials and an exceptionally precise design. The year 1863 is engraved in one of the motifs (a temple with weeping willow).
The Purim festival is particularly popular with children and usually includes a carnival, banquet and party. It is celebrated on the 14th of Adar, which this year falls on the 8th of March. The Hebrew word Purim means “lots” and refers to the lottery that the wicked minister Haman used to determine the date for the massacre of Persian Jews during the reign of King Ahasuerus (generally identified with Xerxes I of Persia). In the Purim story, Esther risks death by coming unbidden into the presence of her husband King Ahasuerus and saves the entire Jewish nation from destruction by revealing her Jewish identity. Midrashim refer to this event as a miracle – and it is this that forms the central motif of the plaque on display. The Book of Esther is read from a special scroll during Purim, and it is customary to make a loud noise with rattles, whistles and other instruments whenever the name of the wicked minister Haman is mentioned.