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53. Seal of Joseph Son of Judah

*Yosef bar Yehudah Zayin-Lamed (?)

*Joseph Son of Judah, May His Memory be for a Blessing (?)

Dimensions: 21 mm. Matrix.

Location: Cluny Museum, Paris, No. 12364.

Bibliography: Klagsbald, 1981, No. 102.

An equally mysterious seal in the Cluny Museum was part of the magnificent Jewish collection of Isaac Strauss given to that museum. The bronze matrix has a device which, though much smaller, is comparable to the one on the seal belonging to Seneor son of the Master Sir Samuel. Here too we have a stylized tree, in this case with five rather than seven branches, resting on which seems a pyramidic tripod, and again there appear to be pods or seeds on the branches. Between two concentric circles is engraved the legend. The Hebrew letters are so badly damaged by time that one must accept on faith the translation of Victor Klagsbald, particularly that involving the lamed of the contraction forming the pious expression “May His Memory Be For a Blessing.” The last two letters, separated from the others on each side by decorative figures Klagsbald calls flowers, are read as a resh followed by a ḥet. If so, they might indicate the date 208, 1448 in the Christian calendar. But, as Klagsbald correcdy notes, one does not find dates on Jewish medieval seals. If, as an alternative, the letters are resh and hay, they might be contractions for Rosh Hakahal, that is, “head of the community.” In the opinion of this writer, these letters do not spell out a date and, in view of the crudity of device and lettering, do not belong to a seal owned by a Jewish community leader.

It is Klagsbald’s feeling that the seal comes from either the thirteenth or fourteenth century and may be Spanish because of its resemblance to the Seneor seal. If it is, the primitive quality of both lettering and design would make it more likely from the fifteenth century, for in this period the quality of seals cut for Spanish Jews declined sharply. There is no way to trace the owner of this seal through the name or the device.

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