What is a Ketuba?
"Slowly the categories of Jewish art are at last being established and investigated. Among them the illuminated ketuba or marriage contract is one of the most significant as well as one of the most charming. Marriage among the Jews was regarded as an occasion when G-d, causing His creatures to rejoice, rejoiced Himself with them, so that even such jubilant manifestations as were usually treated with reserve were now not merely permissible but even encouraged. Thus the formal contract which established the obligations of the bridegroom to his bride also had to receive special adornment."
[Cecil Roth, The Ketuba, 1968, Tel Aviv, Lewin-Epstein Publishers]
The above quote from Cecil Roth should give you a general idea of what a ketuba is and its place in the marriage ceremony. Being a most revolutionary document for its time, the document states the obligations of the groom to his bride and provides for her financial support in case of a divorce or his death. There are many opinions as to when the need for a "contract" between the husband and wife developed. However, general consensus dates the ketuba around the time of the Babylonian Exile and the Aramaic text has remained to this day, unchanged in any detail.
The marriage ceremony is accompanied by the reading of the ketuba document under the bridal canopy [Hebrew: huppa] and is given to the bride by her groom.
There is very little documentary information regarding when the practice of ornamentation to this document began. The earliest remaining example of a decorated ketuba was found in Egypt and has been dated at about 1000 CE. Basically, it grew as a form of peasant art and only the wealthy were able to afford to pay an artist to decorate his contract. Most of the original "ornamented" ketubot originated from the Sephardi communities; however it was not unusual for the Ashkenazi community to have illustrated ketubot as well and, as was often the case, the contract was written by an unskilled scribe.
This folk art form eventually all but disappeared and only in the previous century had begun to grow again, only to become very popular in the last two to three decades.
Beautifully decorated ketubot have also become popular as an anniversary present for couples who only remain with their original, undecorated document from the early years of the previous century when this art form was not as popular as today. Receiving a gift like this can be compared with renewing your marriage vows and your commitment to one another.
If you would be interested in having a "remake" made to replace your old, undecorated ketuba, simply contact the artist using the link directly below.