web analytics
November 23, 2014 / 1 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » Sections » Arts »

Rain In Biblical Art


Wecker-Menachem

One of the most iconic works of art I have ever seen is Japanese painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai’s c. 1831-1834 Cresting Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa. The woodcut—which has held up remarkably well even as it has become an object of kitsch, plastered all over t-shirts, mugs, and posters—depicts an enormous wave (a tsunami perhaps) about to engulf a boat. The wave and foam are rendered in such a stylized manner that they resemble snow and icicles. And in the background, one can just make out the mountain.

Katsushika Hokusai. “Cresting Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa,” or “The Great Wave,” from the series 36 Views of Mt. Fuji. Color Woodcut. C. 1831-1834.

A short essay on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (under the banner, “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History”), which refers to the print’s “sheer graphic beauty,” notes the unusual perspective, where the wave dwarfs the mountain. “Hokusai characteristically cast a traditional theme in a novel interpretation,” the timeline states. “In the traditional meisho-e (scene of a famous place), Mount Fuji was always the focus of the composition. Hokusai inventively inverted this formula and positioned a small Mount Fuji within the midst of a thundering seascape.”

Hokusai’s print often pops up in my mind around the holiday of Sukkot, when the prayer over rain (Tefilat Geshem) is recited at the end of the holiday. The prayer, which addresses the angel Af-Bri, who is appointed over the rainclouds, comes to a crescendo in the statements: “For a blessing and not for a curse! For life and not death! For plenty and not dearth!” Therein lies the dual nature of water. It is simultaneously the bearer of all life, and a force that can—and recently has—destroyed in unprecedented ways.

John Martin. “Noah Giving Thanks After the Flood.” Oil on canvas. C. 1840. Art Institute of Chicago.

Perhaps the greatest biblical example of the destructive power of water is from the original Flood. English painter John Martin’s Noah Giving Thanks After the Flood shows Noah’s sacrifice in front of a rainbow – the symbol that divine retribution would never again take the form of a flood – that emanates from the ark and calm waters. A waterfall, the symbol of the receding floodwaters, dominates the foreground, while in the background, receding storm clouds dissipate. Martin’s decision to juxtapose the stormy and calm waters underscores how quickly peaceful water can become a nightmare, and how, with Divine help, it can again become harmless.

The Schoken Bible, published in Germany in the 14th century, also juxtaposes good and bad waters. On the bottom of the frontpiece for the book of Genesis, depictions of the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning Egyptians appear on the end of a row of illustrations and the beginning of the next row respectively. As Moshe waves his staff at the Red Sea, two other men—stand-ins for the rest of the Israelites—follow behind him with their hands on his shoulders, hora style. In the next circular frame, the Jews have safely passed through the dry path in the ocean, and the waters have come crashing in on the Egyptians. The Egyptian soldiers drown in the ocean with their feet up in the air. The same waters which proved saviors to some were the undoing of others.

Crossing of the Red Sea. Rylands Haggadah, 14th century.

About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.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 “Rain In Biblical Art”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Herzilya's vertical cemetery vaults.
Police Disinter PA Arabs Sleeping Peacefully in Herzliya Graves
Latest Sections Stories
Kupfer-112114

Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.

Astaire-112114-Horse

There were many French Jews who jumped at the chance to shed their ancient identity and assimilate.

L to R: Sheldon Adelson, Shawn Evenhaim, Haim Saban

As Rabbi Shemtov stood on the stage and looked out at the attendees, he told them that “Rather than take photos with your cellphones, take a mental photo and keep this Shabbat in your mind and take it with you throughout your life.”

South-Florida-logo

Yeshiva v’Kollel Bais Moshe Chaim will be holding a grand celebration on the occasion of the institution’s 40th anniversary on Sunday evening, December 7. Alumni, students, friends and faculty of the yeshiva, also known as Talmudic University of Florida, will celebrate the achievement and vision of its founders and the spiritual guidance of its educational […]

The yeshiva night accommodates all levels of Jewish education.

Recently, Fort Lauderdale has been the focus of international news, and it has not been about the wonderful weather.

Rabbi Sacks held the position of chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years until September 2013.

The event included a dvar Torah by student Pesach Bixon, an overview of courses, information about student life and a student panel that answered frequently asked questions from a student perspective.

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

“Grandpa,” I wondered, as the swing began to slow down, “why are there numbers on your arm?”

So the real question is, “How can we, as hosts, make sure our guest beds are comfortable?” Because your guests will never say anything.

It was a land of opportunity, a place where someone who wasn’t afraid of a little hard work, or the challenges of adapting to a different climate and culture, could prosper.

Rule #1: A wife should never accompany her husband to hang out with his buddies at a fantasy football draft. Unless beer and cigars are her thing, that is.

There are many people today with very little training who put out shingles and proclaim themselves to be marital coaches, shalom bayis helpers, advisers etc.

The two World Series combatants, the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants, were Wild Card teams (meaning they didn’t win their respective divisions) that got hot at the right time.

More Articles from Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker

The exhibit, according to a statement from guest curator Michele Waalkes which is posted on the museum website, “examines how faith can inform and inspire artists in their work, whether their work is symbolic, pictorial, or textual in nature. It further explores how present-day artwork can lead audiences to ponder God, religious themes, venerated traditions, or spiritual insights.”

Weck-051812

It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Max Ferguson’s 1993 painting Katz’s may be the second most iconic representation of the kosher-style delicatessen after the 1989 Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan film, When Harry Met Sally. Ferguson’s photorealistic painting depicts the deli from an interesting perspective, which is simultaneously inviting and hostile—in short, the dichotomy of deli culture.

The whole idea of an artful pushka (tzeddakah or charity box) is almost a tease, if not an outright mockery. Isn’t there something pretty backward about investing time and money in an ornate container to hold alms for the poor?

Located about nine miles north of Madrid, the Palacio Real de El Pardo (Pardo Palace) dates back to the early 15th century. Devastated by a March 13, 1604 fire that claimed many works from its priceless art collection, the Pardo Palace and its vast gardens were used as a hunting ground by the Spanish monarchs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/rain-in-biblical-art/2011/11/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: