A Yom Kippur Belt Buckle

A Yom Kippur Belt Buckle

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Chased and engraved with outwardly-facing Lions of Judah flanking a cartouche whose interior reads in Hebrew “For on this day He will make atonement for you, to purify you from all your sins, before G-d you will be purified” (Leviticus 16:30). Made of silver. Ukraine, circa 1800. Generally speaking, the majority of Yom Kippur belt buckles hailing from Poland and Ukraine have design similarities that put them into one of a select number of groups, such as those that just have simple engraving, to others that have design elements in raised relief. You will find almost all the known types of these buckles in the book “Masterpieces of Jewish Art: Silver”, which are examples held in the National Museum of the Ukraine. Our buckle, however, does not seem to fit into any of the aforementioned design groups. As you can see, every bit of space on our buckle is taken up by decoration, mostly by foliage motifs. The tendency to “fill space” is known by the art term Horror vacui (fear of emptiness), and is characteristic of primitive art, as well as folk art. We believe our buckle most likely hails from a rural part of the Ukraine, far away from the major cities (such as Kiev), where Jewish artisans would collaborate in workshops to produce Judaica for the population, and create items in the forms and styles they knew and repeated. Our buckle appears to be one of a kind type, and may be the creation of a Jewish silversmith working alone in a small village.

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