A 700-Year-Old Hebrew Prayer Book at the MFA Houston Is the Beneficiary of This Year’s TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund

The fund will help restore the Montefiore Mainz Mahzor, prayer book that is more than 700 years old.

Montefiore Mainz Mahzor from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

This weekend, art lovers are flocking to the Park Avenue Armory for TEFAF, the esteemed art fair that brings together art, jewels, and antiquities from across the ages. 

The event also marks the 10th anniversary of the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund, which was established in 2012 to support the restoration and conservation of culturally significant works in institutions worldwide. 

This year the fair has named the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston as the recipient of the grant. Funds will be directed toward the conservation of the Montefiore Mainz Mahzor, a cultural, religious, and research manuscript that is more than 700 years old. The Montefiore Mainz Mahzor (circa 1310–20) is a festival prayer book and one of very few Hebrew “illuminated manuscripts” still in existence.

Montefiore Mainz Mahzor from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Montefiore Mainz Mahzor from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“This represents the first time the fund has received an application for a work of Judaica and a manuscript, both categories represented at TEFAF, here married into one object. We are delighted to broaden the scope of our conservation projects in keeping with the diverse interests of the fair’s international audience and exhibiting dealers,” said Rachel Kaminsky, an expert on the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund committee.

The conservation will employ culturally appropriate methods for the religious object. The work was acquired by the MFA Houston in 2018 and was the first work of Judaica to enter the museum’s collection. The acquisition prompted the endowment of a new gallery for Judaica.  

“This extraordinary manuscript is one of a very few surviving examples from Medieval Germany, and is all the more remarkable because it was actively used by congregants for centuries,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the MFA Houston.

The book will be on view at TEFAF New York from May 6-10, 2022. Conservation efforts will begin later this year.

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