The 2nd commandment declares: “You shall not lead to yourself a sculptured image or any likeness of anything that is incorporated in the heavens above or perhaps in our planet below” (Exodus 20:4). This single Biblical edict feeds the misconception that Jewish art developed by Jewish artists is really a fairly new genre. Yet, contrary to popular perception, jewish art go as far back to Biblical times, and Jewish artists have indeed depicted anthropomorphic images.
The sanction that could more aptly work as the slogan for much of Jewish art perhaps should be, “Remember the stranger, for you personally were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” Combined with the repeated biblical command to not forget the stranger and the Israelites’ wandering- and also the insecurity that was included with that homelessness- stands the idea that God’s presence remains eternal and protective, ideas that infuse Jewish art.
The Biblical Bezalel-whose name literally means, “in the shadow or protection of God”-was the Jewish artisan appointed specifically by God to build the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:2). So if one defines Jewish art since the works of Jewish artists, one of several earliest works of Jewish art lay in God’s command to Bezalel regarding the building of the Tabernacle.
The Bible details the beautiful work of Jewish hands in the building of your First Temple in Jerusalem under the direction of King Solomon. It is known as overlaid with gold and decorated with cherubim (I Kings 6). The
describes the advantage of the Herod’s Second Temple, declaring, “He that has not seen the Temple in their full construction has never seen a glorious building in his life” (Tractate Succot 51b).
Despite the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. and the start of a 2,000-year Jewish exile, Jewish art flourished in early post-exilic period, outside and inside the land of Israel, like the Dura Europos and Beit Alpha synagogues. The synagogue in Syria’s Dura Europos, an ancient city down the Euphrates, contains well-preserved frescoes through the third century that portray human figures in biblical scenes.
The sixth-century mosaic of Israel’s Beit Alpha synagogue depicts human figures within a scene in the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), along with indications of the Zodiac. Talmudic texts also acknowledge the existence and tolerance of graven images. Synagogues like those at Beit Alpha and Dura Europos demonstrate that images were not merely tolerated but used by the Jewish communities.
Under Islamic rule, through the Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance, a lot of evidence of Jewish art is fixed to the construction of synagogues along with the illustration of manuscripts. This is probably not as greatly affected by the idea of the next commandment as with the reality from the Jewish community in those eras. Countries with strong Muslim influences, including Spain, featured significantly less physical representation of human forms in art compared to the Northern European communities, because Muslims shun such literal renderings of human forms.
Another thing that could have influenced the seemingly smaller scope of judaica art may lie from the nature of Jewish education. The Jewish communities were acquainted with Biblical stories that caused it to be unnecessary to portray them in the manner that this Christian world was doing for the illiterate masses. As being the Encyclopedia Judaica states, “For the Jews, with their high degree of literacy because of their almost universal system of education as well as their understanding of the scripture story, this is superfluous.”
Works of Jewish art with this period include illuminated manuscripts like the 15th century Kennicott Bible, with illustrations of King David, Jonah, and Balaam. There are also illuminated Bibles from Yemen from the same period, but they will not have the portrayal of human figures. The early 14th century Sarajevo Haggadah, also illuminated, was delivered to Sarajevo from Spain once the Spanish expulsion and Inquisition.
that details the ornate wonder of the Tabernacle did not inspire ornate synagogue architecture in this particular period. Although some synagogues inside the medieval, Middle Ages, and Renaissance contained stained glass, it was unremarkable. Reasons for this might add the political and economic weakness of Jewish communities linked with church controls and also the Jewish communities’ own desires not to draw attention to themselves. More remarkable, however, were the Jewish ritual objects that originated with this time period and continue to be intended to this present day, all inside the name of hiddur mitzvah-the thought of adorning a commandment as well as the objects utilized to perform it with beauty. These include Torah crowns and finials,
In Western Europe, using the coming from the Enlightenment, an increased acceptance of Jews on the planet at large resulted in Jewish artists could practice more freely. The late 19th and early twentieth century led rise to familiar figures of not just the Jewish art world nevertheless the art world at large, including Camille Pissarro, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Marc Chagall.
Camille Pissarro was really a principal impressionist painter who struggled financially to stay true to the impressionist style. Modigliani, the Italian Jewish painter, settled in Paris and had a painting style that included elongated faces representative of African masks. His contemporary, Chaim Soutine, was born in Russia, but also painted in Paris and was friends with Modigliani, who painted his portrait in 1917.
But Marc Chagall, a lot more than these others, incorporated his Jewish upbringing and immigrant experience into his work. Many of Chagall’s renowned paintings are populated with figures of his childhood in Belorussia.
The settling and establishment of the State of Israel in the twentieth century provided another dimension to Jewish art. Many young, often European, Jews stumbled on the Land of Israel in the pre-state period as pioneers (halutzim), in addition to their link with the land accentuated their art. Artists like Reuben Rubin, who made aliyah (immigration to Israel) in 1912 and studied with the newly established (1906) Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem, painted in a manner that showed passion for the land, with romanticized visions of ancient and modern Israel. The work of Anna Ticho, who had studied in Vienna, portrays finely detailed pencil dexqpky04 charcoal renderings of your Judean hills, soft water colors of the plant life and animals around her, and beautiful portraits of the patients, Arab and Jew, who stumbled on her husband’s ophthalmology clinic in their home, where she often worked.
The current immigrant experience is reflected in the works of Mikhail Gorman whose native Russian can be used as text in the paintings, while Israeli-born artist
Agam has established recognizable three-dimensional pieces significant for both their area in the bigger Op-Art movement, as well as their interesting using
The ability or memory of the modern Jewish artist has included the shared reality of pogroms, wars, persecution, as well as a modern-day version of Biblical wanderings. Jewish artists’ work intertwined together with the reality of the time, as with Felix Nussbaum, the Polish painter who later transferred to Berlin and in the end died in Auschwitz with his wife, also an artist. His work reflects wide-eyed fear, like in his 1943, “Self Portrait with Jewish Identity Card.”
And many thousands of years following the wanderings from the Jewish folks the desert, some critics understand Mark Rothko’s large canvases with blocks of color as a modern day tabernacle. In this manner, Rothko, just like jewish paintings, was both making a sanctuary in the role of a location of worship in addition to a mobile place, reflecting the enduring reality of wandering inside the background of the Jewish people.