The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is a recipient of the European Fine Art Foundation’s (TEFAF) Museum Restoration Fund this year and plans to use the grant to conserve a rare Hebrew prayer book and manuscript.

Established in 2012, the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund supports and promotes the restoration and research of significant museum works around the world. Each year, a committee selects two winners to receive a maximum of €25,000 (roughly $26,000) to support their restoration project.

“The Montefiore Mainz Mahzor” (circa 1310-20) is a cultural, religious and research manuscript and festival prayer book that is more than 700 years old.

It is one of a very few hand-written Hebrew books with painted decorations, called “illuminated manuscripts,” still in existence. Conservation efforts on the book are set to begin later this year.

“This represents the first time the fund has received an application for a work of Judaica and a manuscript, both categories represented at TEFAF, married into one object,” said Rachel Kaminsky, an expert on the TEFAF Museum Restoration Fund committee. “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.”

“The Montefiore Mainz Mahzor” was acquired by the MFA Houston in 2018. It was the first work of Judaica to enter the museum’s collection, which prompted the endowment of a new gallery for Judaica, according to MFA Houston director Gary Tinterow.

“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,” he added.

“The Montefiore Mainz Mahzor” was on view at the international fair TEFAF New York from May 6-10.


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