In the Picture Pentateuch of Moses dal Castellazzo (Codex Choumach), a picture Bible with scenes from the first five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch), a number of various illustrations is flanked by interpretive legends and Bible verses as headings. Another example of this depiction style is the Sephardic Pesah-Haggadot.
The Picture Pentateuch of Moses dal Castellazzo: Various Tratitions in One
The Codex Choumach is able to fuse various pictorial traditions into a coherent whole. This fascinating book, now preserved in Warsaw, comprises a number of woodcuts by Moses dal Castellazzo. Though the originals have now been lost, somebody, possibly a Christian humanist, had it made in the 16th century. The pictures are only occasionally tainted red, green or brown. The depictions begin with Creation and end with the death of Moses. In . The book was extremely popular among its contemporaries, and is viewed by scholars as a witness to the lifestyle and times of dying epoch.
Biblical Images, Hebrew and Italian Legends
The principal element of the Picture Pentateuch of Moses dal Castellazzo lies in its depictions, whose significance is explained in a few lines of text. The Biblical scenes are not show in a single depiction; rather, the illustrations often reproduce a cycle of scenes presenting their protagonists at several stages of the narrative, just like in a pictorial chronicle. As in the Hebrew tradition, read right to left. The rectos of the folios generally display two pen-drawings, while the versos are often blank. Most pictures have upper margins with Hebrew text or Biblical verses explaining the underlying picture. On the other hand, the pages' lower margins often display captions in Italian in various lines of text. Both the language (Venetian vernacular) and the type of script point to some time around the mid-16th century.
The Artist: Moses dal Castellazzo
Extremely renowned in the Jewish community, Moses dal Castellazzo enjoyed great fame. In a note to Venice's "Council of the Ten" dated 1521, he describes himself as producer of woodcuts, thereby requesting an unique right to produce and sell a series of them describing the Pentateuch. In order to produce his woodcuts, Moses dal Castellazzo used the a very similar method as the one that had been in use for half a century, when Johannes Gutenberg perfected the technique of moveable type. He used various sources, numerous picture Bible manuscripts and woodcut depictions from early Venetian prints, to which he added contemporary features such as costumes. In Picture Pentateuch, Moses managed to 'save' the picture Bible tradition for the new age of printed books.