The full-page historiated initial word panel on fol. 28b, depicts a ceremonial scene and decorates the opening words of the Haggadah itself: ha lahma anya, ‘This is the bread of affliction’. Three polyfoil arches frame an interior space, the green wall-hangings of which are studded with gold stars. The head of the household is seated in a high-backed wooden chair edged with gold, and has placed the ceremonial basket on the head of the boy seated at his left. This Sephardi custom enables each participant symbolically to experience the Exodus from Egypt, during which the Israelites carried unleavened dough in troughs on their backs.
The other figures at the table – another boy, a woman, a girl and, at the far end, another man – watch and wait for the basket to be placed in turn on their heads. On the table are a gold decanter, wine cup and bowl, with three books in front of the head of the household and the two young boys.
The decorative border, which is inhabited by an acorn motif, fanciful creatures, a lion, peacock and musical instruments, includes a circular form held by two grotesques in the centre of the upper border, which may allude to the matzo. The centre of the lower border contains a quatrefoil supported by two hounds, undoubtedly intended to include a coat of arms, but left without any design. The musical instruments in the lower corners, flanking the heraldic form, are larger and have more strings than those on that page.
Mnemonic guide to the Passover ceremony.
The panel on fol. 28a contains some of the ceremonies performed at the Seder. On the right a man symbolises the beginning of the narration of the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt by holding an open book inscribed with the first five letters of ‘This is the bread of affliction’, the opening words of the Haggadah proper. Next to him is a man performing the second ceremonial washing of hands. The third figure illustrates the blessing recited over bread, by dividing a matzo, depicted as a round form with straight horizontal lines across it, into two. Next to him a man raises a round matzo, on which the initial letter mem is inscribed, to illustrate the specific blessing. The fifth and last man holds the maror, ‘bitter herbs’. A final illustration appears in a quatrefoil to the left of the panel, in the outer margin, and shows a boy removing the afikoman from under the cloth where it was placed at the beginning of the ceremony, as illustrated on fol. 20b.
Leaf size is approximately 255 x 190mm (10 x 7.5in)