Circumcision Ceremony

Bernard Picart


Print of two scenes, both with French text below: the top of baby on man's lap surrounded by people with bed in background, the bottom showing many people in ornate room with baby crib.
Between 1723 and 1737, illustrator Bernard Picart partnered with the Dutch bookseller and publisher Jean-Frédéric Bernard on Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde (Religious Ceremonies and Customs of All the Peoples of the World). It was the most famous encyclopedic work on religion of its time, and is considered the first global comparison of religions. Though the book was condemned by the Catholic Church it was a success with the public, and was translated into Dutch, English, and German. The book’s 266 plates by Picart included depictions of Jewish religious practices in Amsterdam, focusing on the wealthy Sephardic community. Here, two rituals related to the birth of a son are depicted (top), a brit, a circumcision ceremony, and (bottom) a pidyon ha-ben (redemption of a first-born son).


Bernard Picart, La circoncision des Juifs Portugais and Le Rachat du premier né (Besnijdenis bij Portugese Joden en Het terugkopen van de eerstgeborene), 1722. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Published in: The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, vol. 5.

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