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From as early as the thirteenth century, the visual dimension of Jewish esotericism was manifest in various representations of the kabbalistic ilan (tree of life)—a diagram of the sefirot (emanations). Among the many kinds of the kabbalistic diagrams, this essay focuses on the early modern kabbalistic image of the huppah, the wedding canopy suspended over the bride and groom in a traditional Jewish wedding. These images represent the sefirotic structure as a ceremony, with bride, groom, and elements of the huppah as its dynamic components.
In this essay, we discuss three pictorial traditions of the kabbalistic huppah that were produced throughout the sixteenth century. Given the similarities among them, it is evident that all of the diagrams are part of the same kabbalistic tradition was circulating during this period. That said, the drawings are not identical and, most importantly, appear in different contexts. We will thus analyze the divergent phases of the huppah's representation in this tradition. At each stage, the canopy was endowed with special meaning that was influenced by the greater context in which it was produced and its relation to corresponding figures.