Experts at Israel's national museum have completed the restoration of a 15th-century Hebrew manuscript with exquisite illustrations made by master Italian artisans, officials said Thursday.
The Renaissance masterpiece is a copy of the Mishneh Torah, an important work of Jewish law written three centuries earlier by the medieval philosopher and rabbi Maimonides.
The manuscript, written on animal skin, discusses laws governing property, ritual purity and agriculture. It includes Hebrew words in gold leaf and miniature figures in colorful dress against brilliant skies of a blue shade made from lapis lazuli stones.
It took a year for a team at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem to repair the manuscript and prepare it for display, curator Anna Nizza said.
The museum has half of the original book, which was divided into two parts in the 19th century. The other half is owned by the Vatican Library.
The manuscript displayed to reporters Thursday was created in Italy just as the era of great illuminated manuscripts was drawing to a close and the art of bookmaking in Europe was being permanently altered by the advent of the printing press.
James Snyder, the museum's director, said the manuscript was produced by one of the top Renaissance workshops and is "perhaps without parallel in character."
The scribe, whose name is given in an inscription as Nehemia, was Jewish, but curators believe the craftsmen behind the illustrations were Christians working under the guidance of a wealthy Jewish family that commissioned the book. It was not uncommon at the time for Christian artisans to create ritual artifacts for Jews.
A US couple bought the work from a family in Frankfurt, Germany, for an undisclosed price in 2007 and has lent it to the museum. It is slated to go on display in July.