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? Monday, October 23, 2017


Esther’s Swoon Revealed: Tintoretto’s Masterpiece

Earlier this summer I went up to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to see the blockbuster exhibition, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice. While rarely have I seen as many masterpieces collected together in a traveling show, one painting stood out for both its Jewish subject and the surprising way it narrated the dramatic story of Esther appearing before Ahasuerus. The painting, Esther Before Ahasuerus by Tintoretto, (1518-1594) was painted just as the 29-year-old artist was making his mark in Venetian society.

Why Was The Prato Haggadah Left Unfinished?

When the Cistercian abbot Stephen Harding commissioned an illuminated bible in 1109, he wanted to ensure its accuracy. So he did what any good scholar (but very few medieval Church leaders) would do; he sought rabbinic counsel so that he could have access to the original Hebrew. The so-called St. Stephen's Bible, which can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's current exhibit, Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages, represents a rare collaboration of rabbinic and Christian scholarship.

Why Was The Prato Haggadah Left Unfinished?

When the Cistercian abbot Stephen Harding commissioned an illuminated bible in 1109, he wanted to ensure its accuracy. So he did what any good scholar (but very few medieval Church leaders) would do; he sought rabbinic counsel so that he could have access to the original Hebrew. The so-called St. Stephen's Bible, which can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's current exhibit, Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages, represents a rare collaboration of rabbinic and Christian scholarship.

Kinderish Kunst: Na?ve Art

As a matter of principle, I must begin this column by stating bluntly that in my opinion the column's subject, Mayer Kirshenblatt, though he is a very talented storyteller, is not a very good painter by any means. Normally, that would present the end of the story. There are more than enough great artists who grapple with Jewish subject matter and themes that this column does not need to address work that is anything but first rate.

Kinderish Kunst: Naïve Art

As a matter of principle, I must begin this column by stating bluntly that in my opinion the column's subject, Mayer Kirshenblatt, though he is a very talented storyteller, is not a very good painter by any means. Normally, that would present the end of the story. There are more than enough great artists who grapple with Jewish subject matter and themes that this column does not need to address work that is anything but first rate.

A Jewish Thought Bestowed Upon The Nations: Yaakov Agam, 2009 World Games

Kinetic sculpture is an art that has existed since ancient Egypt. To be considered kinetic the sculpture has to have parts that move or are in motion, like a mobile that hangs over a child's crib.

Teaching Chekhov To Recite The Havdalah

In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, a troupe of Athenian actors, "rude mechanicals" according to the sprite Puck, meets in the woods to rehearse "the most lamentable comedy, and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby." Puck frustrates the efforts of Quince, Snug, Flute, Snout, and Starveling to practice when he turns Bottom into a donkey. "If he come not, then the play is marred: it goes not forward, doth it?" worries Flute, but in the end the play-within-a-play transpires on schedule, with all its absurd disclaimers designed not to frighten the court ladies.

Moshe Hammer: Art as Prayer, Prayer as Art

True genius is a rare commodity. Five years ago, 26-year-old Moshe Hammer, z"l, a Lubavitch artist who frequently worked through the night, stepped outside for a walk in Los Angeles, to clear his head and recharge his creative batteries. As was his custom, Moshe rambled miles from his apartment in the Fairfax district.

Poland’s Jewish Ghosts

About 2,500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah, having predicted Nebuchadnezzar's imminent destruction of the First Temple, composed the famous line, "Why did I leave the womb - to see toil and pain - that I may live out my days in shame?" About 500 years later, Joseph ben Matthias, also known as Josephus, observed and recorded the destruction of the Second Temple by Roman emperor Titus, claiming in Book VI of the "War of the Jews" (chapter nine) that 1.1 million Jews were killed and 97,000 were enslaved in the siege.

Poland’s Jewish Ghosts

About 2,500 years ago, the prophet Jeremiah, having predicted Nebuchadnezzar's imminent destruction of the First Temple, composed the famous line, "Why did I leave the womb - to see toil and pain - that I may live out my days in shame?" About 500 years later, Joseph ben Matthias, also known as Josephus, observed and recorded the destruction of the Second Temple by Roman emperor Titus, claiming in Book VI of the "War of the Jews" (chapter nine) that 1.1 million Jews were killed and 97,000 were enslaved in the siege.

Tobi Kahn’s New Harmony

Imagine if we could all work and live together in harmony. We ask for this three times a day, "May it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel at every time, in every hour, with Your peace." This ancient plea, harmony between us and our G-d, harmony between us and our fellow Jews and mankind, is one of the most fundamental yearnings we experience. We are not alone in this deeply human quest.

Pieter Lastman’s David And Uriah Paintings

In one of the most complex and controversial of biblical narratives, the book of 2 Samuel recounts an almost operatic moment in which Uriah the Hittite, husband of Batsheva, was instructed by King David to unknowingly carry his own death sentence to the Jewish general Yoav (Joab). Had Uriah betrayed his king's confidence and opened the letter, he could have surely have escaped death.

Pieter Lastman’s David And Uriah Paintings

In one of the most complex and controversial of biblical narratives, the book of 2 Samuel recounts an almost operatic moment in which Uriah the Hittite, husband of Batsheva, was instructed by King David to unknowingly carry his own death sentence to the Jewish general Yoav (Joab). Had Uriah betrayed his king's confidence and opened the letter, he could have surely have escaped death.

The Amulet, The Temple, The Disfigured Book, and The Butterflies: The Art of Yona...

Throughout the ages, synagogues have housed some of the greatest examples of Jewish art, including the mosaic floors at Bet Alpha and the frescoes at Dura-Europos. Unfortunately, the fate of the works of art has been inextricably tied to their host, and much great Jewish art has perished along with the synagogues whose walls, floors, and ceilings it adorned. Not only have natural disasters and the decay process claimed many synagogues, but also many times, they have been targeted specifically by anti-Semites who sought to destroy Jewish culture and life.

The Amulet, The Temple, The Disfigured Book, and The Butterflies: The Art of Yona...

Throughout the ages, synagogues have housed some of the greatest examples of Jewish art, including the mosaic floors at Bet Alpha and the frescoes at Dura-Europos. Unfortunately, the fate of the works of art has been inextricably tied to their host, and much great Jewish art has perished along with the synagogues whose walls, floors, and ceilings it adorned. Not only have natural disasters and the decay process claimed many synagogues, but also many times, they have been targeted specifically by anti-Semites who sought to destroy Jewish culture and life.

Way to Heaven by Juan Mayorga

An unshaven man stumbles onstage, clad in a raincoat covering his pajamas. He is barefoot and shuffles among the dried leaves that litter the stage area, a long rectangular set with the audience on either side. It is a most intimate performance area, uncomfortably so.

Feminist Trends At The Jewish Art Salon

It was a little surreal sitting in the sanctuary of the Stanton Street Synagogue at the opening of the Jewish Art Salon exhibit. It was hard not to notice the sharp contrast between the synagogue's tragically decaying collection of Zodiac signs painted on its walls and its dusty interior - some parts of which might still bear original grime dating back to 1913 when the synagogue was built - and the vibrant new art created by the 29 artists affiliated with the salon (including both the authors of this column).

Tzelem: Presence And Likeness In Jewish Art

Jewish Art is a grass-roots movement whose time has come. It has evolved precisely because there are those who are moved by their Jewish heritage and wish to share this experience with the art world, the general public and the Jewish community. There has never been such an exciting time.

What’s New with Prague’s Old-New Synagogue, And Old Jewish Cemetery?

When on April 5th, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Prague's Pinkas Synagogue with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and David Axelrod, a senior White House advisor, she expressed particular interest in the synagogue's collection of drawings by children from the concentration camp of Terezín, which they created under the tutelage of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944).

What’s New with Prague’s Old-New Synagogue, And Old Jewish Cemetery?

When on April 5th, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Prague's Pinkas Synagogue with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and David Axelrod, a senior White House advisor, she expressed particular interest in the synagogue's collection of drawings by children from the concentration camp of Terez?n, which they created under the tutelage of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944).

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