Since Jews were generally not allowed to join guilds in German-speaking lands before their emancipation in the nineteenth century, early signed works of ceremonial art made by Jewish artists are exceedingly rare, if one discounts works of folk art made by untrained craftsmen. This Torah curtain and matching valance are exceptions. The text of a cartouche at bottom left reads:
"My handiwork in which I glory" (Isaiah 60:21) …Jacob Koppel son of Juda Leib, of blessed memory, Gans G(old]s[ticker]?, Hochstadt.
Opposite the inscription is a cartouche that contains a chronogram indicating the date. The other personalized inscription appears at the top of the curtain and indicates the donor:
Jacob Kitzingen son of the deceased Rabbi Leib K[atz], of blessed memory, and his wife Hendel daughter of…Tevli Ulma… from Pfrrsee.
In these inscriptions, the places of origin as well as most of the family names are those of towns in Bavaria, which suggests that the curtain was made there.
Indeed, this curtain and valance represent a late flowering of a type that had been established in Bavaria in the 1720s by another Jewish embroiderer, who signed his works "Elkone of Naumberg." The valance of a curtain made by Elkone for a synagogue near Augsburg (as is Pfersee) also bears three crowns (symbolic of Torah, priesthood, and royalty) and five vessels of the ancient Tabernacle, arranged in the same order and similar in form to those on Jacob Koppel Gans's work. Elkone may have been inspired by a series of valances with Tabernacle vessels made in Prague and Frankfurt during the second decade of the eighteenth century. His work, in turn, served as a model for that of Jacob Koppel Gans. It was Gans's original achievement to have closely integrated the decoration of the valance with that of the curtain by repreating the same symbols on both: the menorah, the crown, and the heraldic double-headed eagle.