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Torah shield

The depicted shield is the oldest Torah shield in the museum’s collections whose date and authorship can be accurately determined. For this reason alone, it is one of the museum’s most important metal artefacts. It also stands out for its quite unique iconography.

The shield was made in 1708 and comes from the workshop of the Prague silversmith Jan Kogler (ca. 1670–1720). Its technical workmanship confirms the maker as one of the leading producers of his day. The theme of the decoration is utterly unique and was quite certainly made to order. Unfortunately, the shield contains no dedicatory inscription that could make it easier to determine who commissioned the work. It is not possible to compare it with other local products as no other shields from this period have been preserved, although similar decoration can be seen on shields dating from about fifty years later. The motif of two figures standing on each side also appears on shields from Germany and Silesia, but these are, without exception, the figures of Moses and Aaron. On this shield, the figure of Moses is replaced by that of Judith with the severed head of the enemy commander Holofernes. The figure of Judith appears on no other Torah shield, which suggests that this was connected with the person who commissioned the work. The large central motif of the Hanukkah candelabrum is also unusual; a candelabrum often appears as a central feature on German shields, but in the vast majority of cases it is the seven-branched menorah. It may be assumed that this shield was intended for use during the holiday of Hanukkah. Originally part of the inventory of the Maisel Synagogue, the shield is now on permanent display in the Klausen Synagogue.

Torah shield, Inv. No. 44.437 Chased and partly gilt silver, Prague 1708, Jan Kogler Height 325 mm, width 290 mm

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