Meir Panim’s Tiberias Free Restaurant not only provides warm meals, but the opportunity to socialize as well.
Seldom has a people’s cultural expression changed in so short a period of time as the revolution that overtook the Jews with the invention of moveable type and the printed book. Johannes Guttenberg’s invention in the 1450′s quickly swept south and the first Hebrew book, the Aruch, a lexicon for Talmudic study, was printed in Italy in 1470. The illuminated Hebrew manuscript was obsolete within a generation and was replaced by the printed book. The hand had been supplanted by the press. Haggadahs
Haggadahs, (16th To 20th Centuries)
If synagogue floor mosaics characterized Jewish Art from the third to sixth centuries and the illuminated manuscript did the same for European Jewish Art between the 13th and 15th centuries, then the illustrated Haggadah is the fundamental Jewish Art expression from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Five hundred years. The Haggadah is the most reprinted Jewish book in history (over 3,000 editions have been collected) and is the most illustrated of Hebrew texts. The earliest printed Haggadah dates from approximately the first years of the 16th century and is quickly followed by 25 separate editions in the next hundred years, many illustrated with woodcut prints. Four prototypical editions influenced almost all illustrations that followed, up to the 20th century: Prague, 1526; Mantua, 1560; Venice, 1609; and Amsterdam, 1695.
The 60 woodcut illustrations, many with ornate Renaissance borders and found in the Prague Haggadah, became a template for most of the subsequent illustration depicting the preparation and celebration of Passover and Biblical scenes from the narrative itself. The Mantua Haggadah shifts the stylistic emphasis to the Italian Renaissance, even going so far as to include an image by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel as the Wise Son. In what may be the most moving image in the Mantua Haggadah, “Pour out Your wrath” the Messiah rides a donkey and is heralded with a shofar by Eliyahu HaNavi at the entrance to an Italian city. The yearning for the Messiah, a messiah now, to disperse those who oppress us is palpable; the integration of text and image is masterly.
While the Venetian Haggadah also creates a whole lexicon of images (the Abraham narrative, the Exodus and even the encampment in the Wilderness), it is the Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695 that revolutionizes Haggadah images for the next 200 years. It was the first to use copperplate engravings and presents images by the convert, Abraham ben Jacob, who adapted the Biblical engravings of the Christian artist Matthaeus Merian. This extensive suite of images Judaizes late Renaissance notions of form and content, allowing 18th century European visual culture to be imbibed in the homes of countless Jews at Passover. The proliferation of the printing press, a mechanized form of writing, had democratized all areas of Jewish learning and consequently Jewish Art.
A rather curious thing happens to Jewish illustrated texts sometime in the 18th century. While the whole world produced printed books in hundreds if not thousands of copies, a small movement of Jews in middle Europe started to create (yet again) handwritten texts, frequently illuminated with watercolors and ink drawings. They were less narrative-oriented and favored a decorative ornamentation of the text. Haggadahs were created copying the aforementioned illustrated printed editions. But more importantly, there was a groundswell of individual works (many produced by sofers for their own use) that returned the care, love and handmade artistry to the Jewish book.
The Tikun Erev Rosh Chodesh Be’chadshoh (1728) from Rotterdam is a diminutive jewel, only 4″ x 6 1/2″ by the sofer and artist Nathan ben Samson of Mehzeritch. While the tiny book is laced with decorated letters, delightfully ornate with multi-colored inks and floral designs, the glowing masterpiece is the title page, graced with dedicatory cartouches framed by figures of Moses and Aaron in red- and blue-colored ink. The bold text surrounds color and image to produce a moving call to repentance, a cry for forgiveness carried up to Heaven in the form of Jewish Art.
An earlier example of this manuscript renaissance is the handwritten and decorated Siddur of Shimshon ben Yochanan HaLevi, chazzan of Gelnhausen (Hesse, Germany) in 1673. The principle parts of the text are ornamented in much the same filigree style of manuscripts 300 years earlier. The artist’s sense of drama, willfully creating title words in the center of the page and essentially redesigning with dramatically ornamented text design the flow of the prayers, sees the siddur as a fluid reservoir of religious emotion and artistic expression. The text of “Av Harachamim” before the Shabbos Musaf service alternates between red and black text, creating a funnel to concentrate the punishment of our oppressors. A brilliant red pair of eyeglasses surrounds the word “Av” to demand that G-d Himself closely examine and judge the actions of our enemies.
Another aspect of Jewish Art that concentrates on individual use, as opposed to public use (and in a way humanizes the printed word) is the twin, folk arts of micrography and papercuts. Micrography (the use of sacred text, written very small to create designs and images) originated in 10th century Egypt and Palestine, heavily influenced by Islamic culture. Hebrew micrography was the creation of the Masorah scribes of Tiberias and soon developed into a major element in illuminated manuscripts, embedding Masoric texts in architectural and abstract designs that surround sacred text. It was utilized in all kinds of illuminated texts: luxury Bibles, Haggadot, ketubbot, omer counters and amulets. And it easily made the transition into printed works. As it has developed into a medium to create full-fledged images of increasing complexity (depicting many Biblical narratives and Jewish-themed images) it has remained a predominantly Jewish art form.
While micrography is a scribal art form, papercuts are also primarily a male folk art. Starting with young boys in cheder who made the simple, cut out rosette designs to decorate windows for Shavous and to decorate the succah, the craft developed into much more sophisticated designs and themes. The earliest record of a Jewish papercut is in 14th century Spain. Actual examples, overwhelmingly from Eastern and Central Europe, are of course much later (the earliest from the 18th century) because of the inherent fragility of the medium.
The primary role of the papercut was to beautify the home interior, decorating walls with ornamented texts, such as mizrah, shivisi (also synagogue use), ushpizin for the succah, sefiras haomer calendar, menorah and hamsa, amulets (especially for the newborn), bris, yahrzeit, kettubot, blessings and commemorations – and even the Megillas Esther scroll. This art form essentially took important events and rituals and elevated them with skill and artistry as a hiddur mitzva (enhancement of the mitzva).
In the 500 years since the inception of Hebrew printing, the Jewish text has encountered and been enhanced by Jewish visual expression, both in the mechanical printed book and the handmade creations of later manuscripts and papercuts. This integration, evidencing a continual stimulation of the visual imagination, perhaps laid some of the groundwork for Jewish participation in the larger European cultural environment encountered in the traumatic changes of the 19th century. That century would see the birth of modern Jewish painting, an art form that continues to the present day.
Editorial Note:This Jewish Art Primer is dependent upon my own research and many published studies and monographs on Jewish Art. At the end of the series, a bibliography will be provided.
Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Please feel free to contact him with comments email@example.com
About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Brooklyn resident David Siller, currently studying in Israel at Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah in Beit Shemesh, was awarded a trophy for finishing 3rd in his age group (14-18) in a 5-kilometer race for the benefit of the Benjamin Children’s Library of Beit Shemesh.
Today is day six without a phone.
Besides for feeling slightly isolated, it’s not too bad.
I’ve been doing things that I know I would not be doing if my phone was sitting next to me, shiny screen beckoning.
Is anyone else alarmed by the way extended warranties are sold on just about anything and everything? It means one of two things – either someone has found a great way of getting consumers to part with more of their hard earned dollars or manufacturers have no faith in their own products. Neither of those options is particularly heartwarming.
As I described Gaon in a review in June 2001 (“In Search of Ancestors, Sculpture by Simon Gaon” at Yeshiva University Museum), his Bukharian Jewish roots are deeply embedded on both sides of his family, echoed in his early yeshiva education.
Let me begin by congratulating my dear machatunim, Soraya and Jay Nimaroff, on being the recipients of the Community Service Award at the Sderot Hesder Institutions 18th annual anniversary dinner.
Think of your issues this way: due to those different backgrounds, you have a “shovel” to deal with difficulties while he has a “spoon”.
Do you remember the good old days when kids were kids and there was never anything to worry about? Those days never really existed, but today there are issues kids worry about that weren’t issues for some adults. They include fear of bullying, natural disasters, divorce, and violence.
In Part I talked about celebrating 30 years of Regesh Family and Child Services providing services to children, teens and families. I shared the agency’s origin and the many lessons I have learned through this journey. As I mentioned, it is my hope that my experiences will add to your toolbox of life skills.
Unfortunately, a map of the Middle East with no mention of Israel is nothing new… It is surprising however, that the world’s largest publisher of children’s literature, Scholastic Books, has joined in this trend.
About six months ago my parents and I started discussing ideas for a mitzvah project in honor of my bat mitzvah. I wanted to do something unique that would be meaningful to me and also do something that my friends could participate in. Immediately I thought of an organization called Sharsheret.
“I’m disappointed that the agreement reached with Iran leaves our unfulfilled our ultimate objective: a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program and related activities.
Southern NCSY will be holding a leadership training Shabbaton at the Young Israel of Bal Harbour December 6 and December 7. Rabbi Steven Weil, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, will be the special guest speaker.
Is there a beginning and an end to the universe? What role can medical breakthroughs play in conception or genetic engineering? Can science help us pinpoint the end of human life? Does the soul emanate from the brain or vice-versa?
The fact that the Jewish Museum’s curator Susan Tumarkin Goodman presents these issues as the inescapable core of her exhibition demonstrates the courage to challenge her audience with deeply discomforting images and concepts.
Lynda Caspe’s current exhibition at the Derfner Museum is an extraordinary event. In this show of 12 bronze relief sculptures and 14 cityscape paintings we have the opportunity to see the full scope of her last six years of work that, as least with the sculptures, marked a radical change in subject matter and technique.
The philosopher Theodor Adorno famously wrote in 1949, “cultural criticism finds itself with the final stage of the dialectic of culture and barbarism. To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” This statement posited that the Holocaust exposed the unredeemable rotten underbelly of Western culture and therefore the very notion of creating beauty and sensitivity was at an insurmountable impasse. Alas, as cultural history has shown, he was wrong. Strikingly, it might be said that one of the few ways still provocatively available to speak about the Holocaust is in fact through poetry.
“Hyman Bloom: Paintings and Drawings (1940 – 2005),” currently at White Box (the cutting edge international art space on Broome Street), is a rare opportunity to observe the creative process of one of the most important practitioners of 20th century Jewish Art in America.
The “book” is a mighty big place these days and the current exhibition at MOBIA, “As Subject and Object: Contemporary Book Artists Explore Sacred Hebrew Texts,” is no exception. Highly mobile ebooks compete with online publications and traditionally bound volumes, scrolls, accordion-style tomes and folios that present equally exciting options for contemporary artists to interact with image and text in one unifying medium.
At the Chassidic Art Institute one artist, Harry McCormick, has rather amazingly fathomed the authentic heartbeat of the individual Jewish life. This exhibition, running until July 25, shows a mere 16 paintings, but six of them reveal a deeply perceptive and sensitive chronicle of Yiddishkeit.
Judaica Auctions and the exhibition that precede them at Kestenbaum & Company are always a cornucopia of aesthetic delights. The sheer variety and overall quality of the ceremonial objects and works of art make the exhibition and catalogue a museum-like experience. The current exhibition is no exception.
Whether it is the disastrous report of the 12 spies or the furious condemnation that doomed an entire generation to die in the wilderness, the Torah narrative in Bamidbar turns terribly grim after the glorious inauguration of the Mishkan in the second year after leaving Egypt. With this in mind, just imagine my surprise at an encounter with two artists who address these (and other Biblical) themes right around the corner.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/a-jewish-art-primer-part-ii-books-to-papercuts/2006/05/03/
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