web analytics
December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » Sections » Arts »

Kestenbaum’s Gems

Sacrifice of Isaac (20th century) gouache on paper by Shalom of Safed Courtesy Kestenbaum & Company

Sacrifice of Isaac (20th century) gouache on paper by Shalom of Safed Courtesy Kestenbaum & Company

Plague of Frogs (detail) (1757) ink & watercolor on parchment by Nathanel ben Aaron Segal Haggadah courtesy Kestenbaum & Company

Perhaps the most startling images in the exhibition are a pair of Indo-Persian Jewish folk paintings from the 19th century. While there is an established tradition of miniature paintings in Judeo-Persian manuscripts, I am not aware of a painting tradition of iconic images, here representing Aaron and Moses. Each is framed by a wreath of flowers, a magen david emblazoned with the word Tzion and surmounted by a crown, the whole assemblage held aloft by two smiling Persian angels. Both are standing in a lush green field punctuated by beautifully detailed flowers with fanciful mountains in the distance. Moses points heavenward as he holds two blank tablets. It is a challenge to imagine what setting was intended for these modest paintings (each 20” x 16”). Since they have blank panels for dedicatory passages, perhaps their function was as synagogue decorations or private home embellishments. Whatever their purpose, the straightforward and loving depictions of Torah luminaries reflects the age-old Jewish passion for visual expression and a fearless willingness to adapt from their surrounding culture.

Siegmund Forst (1904 – ?), the Viennese trained illustrator and designer, had a successful career creating numerous children’s books, haggadot and megillot after arriving in New York in 1939. While his work illustrating the Little Midrash Says children’s book series is remembered by many loyal readers, I am not sure that many know he also produced fine art, evidenced by his painting The Messiah, seen here. The deeply pensive Messiah, riding his traditional donkey, is engulfed by a firestorm of expressionistic red, yellow and ochre paint. The image expresses the world shattering upheaval inherent in the coming of the anointed one, even depicting shadowy resurrected figures on the left. Forst’s Messiah is deeply etched with a 20th Century consciousness.

Shalom of Safed (1887 – 1980) was a chasidwho worked most of his life as a watchmaker, scribe, stonemason and silversmith. Late in life he was encouraged to turn to painting after a successful Israeli artist, Yossel Bergner, discovered the extraordinary folk quality in Shalom’s hand-made toys. Although he only painted the last 30 years of his life, he nonetheless managed to create a unique form of contemporary Jewish art. Unconsciously drawing on the depiction of multiple narratives found in Dura Europos and medieval Jewish manuscripts, Shalom’s artwork explores Biblical and Jewish themes using the same “continuous narrative” style imbedded with the richness of midrashic exposition. Frequently he utilizes many horizontal registers to allow the narrative to unfold pictorially as he weaves the text and identifying labels into the images. The artist’s primary role as a storyteller sets the stage for insightful and witty commentary.

The Messiah (20th century) oil on board by Siegmund Forst Courtesy Kestenbaum & Company

Kabbalists of Tzfat depicts two sets of chasidim praying at the purported grave of Benayahu ben Yehoyoda, a righteous general in the time of David and Solomon mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:20-23. Still visited today, the site is depicted as a mound with a tree sprouting from it with the pious chasidim schematically facing it from each side. Shalom contextualizes the depiction with scenes of Tzfat and the surrounding countryside above and below the pilgrimage gravesite.

In The Sacrifice of Isaac the “continuous narrative” style of repeating the same character as the narrative unfolds offers the viewer the opportunity to compare differences between the three registers and glean the artist’s subtle commentary. The bottom register presents Abraham leading the way with the donkey, only then followed by Isaac, Eliezar and finally Yishmael, here outfitted in a Ottoman fez and wearing a incongruous sword. The fez represents the oppressive Ottoman Turkish rulers of Shalom’s youth and the sword symbolizes Yishmael’s violent nature. We must remember Shalom is utilizing the midrash here since the text only tells us Abraham took “his two young men.”

In the middle register the tone of the narrative changes. Now Isaac is leading the way, bearing the sacrificial wood on his back, followed by his father carrying the fire and the knife for the slaughter. The “lads” have been told to “stay by yourselves here,” hence Eliezar is seated with the donkey. Yishmael is seen at the very edge of the composition irreverently smoking a pipe, clearly clueless about the gravity of the event unfolding before him.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Kestenbaum’s Gems”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Christian Israeli Kay Wilson and Mohammed "Zionist" Zoabi.
Christian Terror Victim Protected ‘Mohammed the Zionist’ from Terrorists
Latest Sections Stories
Games-121914

Here are examples of games that need to be played by more than one person and an added bonus: they’re all Shabbos-friendly.

South-Florida-logo

The incident was completely unforeseeable. The only term to describe the set of circumstances surrounding it is “freak occurrence.”

South-Florida-logo

The first Chabad Center in Broward County, Chabad of South Broward, now runs nearly fifty programs and agencies. T

The NHS was also honored to have Bob Diener as keynote speaker.

Written with flowing language and engaging style, Attar weaves a spell that combines mystery, humor, adventure and Kabbalah in the most magical place in the world, the Old City of erusalem.

There are those who highlight the diversity of these different teachings, seeing each rebbe as teaching a separate path.

Rav Dynovisz will be speaking in Hebrew on Wednesday, January 7, at 7:30 p.m.

Rabbi Simeon Schreiber, senior chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, saw a small room in the hospital that was dark and dismal but could be used for Sabbath guests.

“The secret to a good donut is using quality ingredients and the ability to be patient and give them time to proof.”

I so desperately want to have a loving relationship with my stepsons.

The Liberty Bell is a symbol of American Independence.

Because you can’t have kids pouring huge jugs of oil into tiny glasses, unless you want to turn your house into an environmental disaster.

Try these with your kids; there’s something for every age group and once all the recipes are made, dinner will be ready!

You children will build the country and you will help restore Israel to her former glory.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/kestenbaums-gems/2012/06/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: