Millions Paid for Maimonides Mishnah

A 15th-century illustrated volume of Mishnah Torah from the collection of Michael and Judy Steinhardt, which was planned to be sold in New York at Sotheby’s yesterday morning, was jointly purchased by the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, just before the start of the auction.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social media network viewed the entire sale catalog on yesterday's homepage..

Estimated at $4.5 million to $6 million, it was to be the top lot in the 386-lot sale from the Judaica collection which the former hedge-fund manager and his wife assembled over more than 30 years.

“The acquisition of this remarkable manuscript by the Israel Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is poetic given Judy’s and my longstanding involvement with both institutions,” Michael Steinhardt said in an emailed statement. “It is particularly meaningful that this event marks the first significant collaboration between the two museums.”

While the private transaction price remains undisclosed, it is known to exceed the current record for Judaica at auction which was set in 1989 at Sotheby’s London when a Hebrew Bible sold for $2.9 million, the auction house said.

Written by Moses Maimonides in the 12th century, Mishnah Torah contains 14 books of the Jewish legal code.

Steinhardt’s volume includes books 7 through 14, and was part of a two-volume set created in 1457 in Northern Italy. Other volumes are in the collections of the Vatican library.

Collector Support

The Israel Museum acquired the volume with support from the Steinhardts, Zurich collectors Susanne and Rene Braginsky, co- founder of Incentive Asset Management AG; Renee and Lester Crown, chairman of Henry Crown & Co, Chicago-based private investment group; philanthropist Lynn Schusterman of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and one anonymous donor, the museum said in an announcement.

In 1950, a Frankfurt Jewish family acquired the manuscript, along with seven others, in exchange for property that the city wished to acquire for municipal development. It remained in the family until its 2007 purchase by Judy and Michael Steinhardt, New York.

The manuscript underwent a complete restoration at the Israel Museum, where it has been on long-term loan since 2007 and on view to the public from 2010 to 2013.

“The Mishnah Torah is a rare treasure that unites Jewish literary heritage with some of the finest illuminations from the Italian Renaissance,” said James S. Snyder, Anne and Jerome Fisher Director of the Israel Museum.