The 2nd commandment declares: “You shall not lead to your sculptured image or any likeness of whatever is within the heavens above or perhaps in planet earth below” (Exodus 20:4). This single Biblical edict feeds the misconception that Jewish art created by Jewish artists is really a relatively recent genre. Yet, in contrast to popular perception, jewish art date back to Biblical times, and Jewish artists have indeed depicted anthropomorphic images.
The sanction that would more aptly function as the slogan for a lot of Jewish art perhaps ought to be, “Remember the stranger, for you personally were once strangers inside the land of Egypt.” Paired with the repeated biblical command to remember the stranger as well as 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 construct the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:2). In case one defines Jewish art as being the works of Jewish artists, among the earliest works of Jewish art lay in God’s command to Bezalel regarding the making of the Tabernacle.
The Bible details the beautiful work of Jewish hands in the building from the First Temple in Jerusalem within the direction of King Solomon. It can be known as overlaid with gold and decorated with cherubim (I Kings 6). The
describes the good thing about the Herod’s Second Temple, declaring, “He that has not seen the Temple within its full construction has never seen a glorious building within his life” (Tractate Succot 51b).
Despite the destruction from the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and the starting of a 2,000-year Jewish exile, Jewish art flourished during the early post-exilic period, inside and outside the land of Israel, such as the Dura Europos and Beit Alpha synagogues. The synagogue in Syria’s Dura Europos, a medieval city across the Euphrates, contains well-preserved frescoes in the third century that portray human figures in biblical scenes.
The sixth-century mosaic of Israel’s Beit Alpha synagogue depicts human figures in a scene through the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22), as well as warning signs of the Zodiac. Talmudic texts also acknowledge the existence and tolerance of graven images. Synagogues like those at Beit Alpha and Dura Europos reveal that images were not just tolerated but utilized by the Jewish communities.
Under Islamic rule, in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, most of evidence of Jewish art is restricted to the making of synagogues as well as the illustration of manuscripts. This may not be as greatly affected by the knowledge of the 2nd commandment as with the reality of the Jewish community in those eras. Countries with strong Muslim influences, including Spain, featured much 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 possibly have influenced the seemingly smaller scope of judaica art may lie within the nature of Jewish education. The Jewish communities were familiar with Biblical stories that made it unnecessary to portray them in how how the Christian world was doing for your illiterate masses. Because the Encyclopedia Judaica states, “For the Jews, with their high degree of literacy because of their almost universal system of education in addition to their understanding of the scripture story, this became superfluous.”
Works of Jewish art from this period include illuminated manuscripts just like the 15th century Kennicott Bible, with illustrations of King David, Jonah, and Balaam. There are illuminated Bibles from Yemen through the same period, however they do not have the portrayal of human figures. The initial 14th century Sarajevo Haggadah, also illuminated, was brought to Sarajevo from Spain once the Spanish expulsion and Inquisition.
that details the ornate wonder of the Tabernacle failed to inspire ornate synagogue architecture with this period. While some synagogues from the medieval, Middle Ages, and Renaissance contained stained glass, it had been unremarkable. Causes of this may range from the political and economic weakness of Jewish communities bound to church controls along with the Jewish communities’ own desires not to highlight themselves. More remarkable, however, were the Jewish ritual objects that originated within this time frame and continue to be designed to this day, all from the name of hiddur mitzvah-the notion of adorning a commandment along with the objects accustomed to perform it with beauty. These include Torah crowns and finials,
In Western Europe, with all the coming in the Enlightenment, an increased acceptance of Jews on earth at large meant that Jewish artists could practice more freely. The late 19th and early twentieth century led rise to familiar figures of not merely the Jewish art world but the art world at large, including Camille Pissarro, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Marc Chagall.
Camille Pissarro was actually a principal impressionist painter who struggled financially to keep true on the impressionist style. Modigliani, the Italian Jewish painter, settled in Paris along with a painting style that included elongated faces associated with African masks. His contemporary, Chaim Soutine, was born in Russia, but in addition 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. Most of Chagall’s renowned paintings are populated with figures of his childhood in Belorussia.
The settling and establishment of the State of Israel from the twentieth century provided another dimension to Jewish art. Many young, often European, Jews arrived at the Land of Israel within the pre-state period as pioneers (halutzim), along with their link to the land accentuated their art. Artists like Reuben Rubin, who made aliyah (immigration to Israel) in 1912 and studied in the newly established (1906) Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem, painted in a fashion that showed fascination with 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 in the Judean hills, soft water colors of the plant life and animals around her, and beautiful portraits of the patients, Arab and Jew, who got to her husband’s ophthalmology clinic in their home, where she often worked.
The current immigrant experience is reflected within the works of Mikhail Gorman whose native Russian is utilized as text within his paintings, while Israeli-born artist
Agam has created recognizable three-dimensional pieces significant both for their place in the bigger Op-Art movement, in addition to their interesting utilization of
The ability or memory of the modern Jewish artist has included the shared reality of pogroms, wars, persecution, along with a modern-day version of Biblical wanderings. Jewish artists’ work intertwined together with the reality of times, much like Felix Nussbaum, the Polish painter who later moved to Berlin and ultimately died in Auschwitz along 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 after the wanderings from the Jewish people in the desert, some critics understand Mark Rothko’s large canvases with blocks of color as a modern tabernacle. In this manner, Rothko, much like jewish paintings, was both building a sanctuary in the role of a location of worship and also a mobile place, reflecting the enduring reality of wandering in the reputation of the Jewish people.