web analytics
July 4, 2015 / 17 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Reading Szyk’s Cards


King Saul, King of Spades by Arthur Szyk
Heroes of Ancient Israel: Playing Card Art published by Historicana

King Saul, King of Spades by Arthur Szyk Heroes of Ancient Israel: Playing Card Art published by Historicana

King Solomon represents the King of Hearts with a passive equanimity, gently holding his Song of Songs, his calm serenity expressing his legendary wisdom. Ruth as the Queen of Hearts is likewise sweetly self-possessed, a blond convert among all the other dark-haired Jews. John of Giscala (Yochanan ben Levi) as the Jack of Hearts presents a calm warrior; indeed his cunning allowed his strategic escape from Titus to take up the leadership of the Zealots in the final battle for Jerusalem. Unfortunately his latter history in the siege of Jerusalem was violent and divisive. Therefore it is hard to fit him into the pensive paradigm of the other two.

King Solomon, King of Hearts by Arthur Szyk
Heroes of Ancient Israel: Playing Card Art published by Historicana

Finally the King of Diamonds is fittingly represented by King Hezekiah. Quite beyond his courage in resisting the brutal assault of the Assyrian Sennacherib on Jerusalem, it was King Hezekiah’s determined religious reforms and return to the worship of Hashem that earned him the praise that he: “trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him” (2 Kings 18:5). Defense of Torah similarly characterized Deborah as Queen of Hearts. She calmly holds a miniature scale representing her role as the only female Judge of Israel, one who wisely defended Israel in the face of the assaults of the Canaanite general Sisera. The choice of Simon Bar Giora as Jack of Diamonds does not fit the pattern he was a deeply violent leader during the Siege of Jerusalem, tragically contributing to the carnage and civil war that led to the defeat of the city in 70 CE.

Arthur Szyk’s “Playing Card Art” is a sensitive survey of what it means to be a Jewish hero. While indeed the series offers “the heroes of ancient Israel as the paradigm for Jewish survival and triumph over adversity” (Irvin Ungar), nonetheless the artist has presented a greatly nuanced view of Jewish leadership and its consequences, all in a format in which one can settle down to a friendly game of poker while pondering the complexity of Jewish history.

[I am indebted to the excellent catalogue by Allison Claire Chang on this series for background and historical perspective.]

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 “Reading Szyk’s Cards”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
UN Human Rights Council
UN HRC Condemns Israel (But Not Hamas) for War Crimes
Latest Sections Stories
South-Florida-logo

Orlando was once a place where people came only to visit and vacation. Now it is home to a burgeoning Torah community, a place Jewish families can be proud to call home.

South-Florida-logo

The smuggler’s life has been changed forever. He is faced with a major criminal charge. He will probably be sent to prison.

South-Florida-logo

“Thanks to a local philanthropist who shares our core mission, we now are able to connect more Jewish teens to Israel than ever before,” said Todd Cohn, executive director of Southern NCSY.

In September 2013 he was appointed head rabbi of the IDF Central Command and is currently in charge of special projects for the IDF chief rabbinate.

Last month we outlined how a few years after Judah Touro’s death a public movement was inaugurated by the citizens of New Orleans to erect a monument to his memory, and that opposition to this tribute came from a number of rabbis throughout the country who claimed that Judaism forbade the erection of any graven […]

Marceau suggested a dark reason for his wordless art: “The people who came back from the [concentration] camps were never able to talk about it…. My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.”

Anna Henriques, who hopes to one day head back to Jamaica, says, “Rabbi Raskin must be willing to respect what exists in Jamaica. The way to the future is to gently bring in the traditions of the past and at the same time embrace the idiosyncrasies of the Jamaican people.”

The Silver Platter has it all: gorgeous photography, oodles of useful tips and, more importantly, incredible recipes that you will find yourself making again and again.

It may be that seeking to connect with the past is rooted in the impermanence and impersonality of modern life.

It is very hard to build a healthy marriage when you do not have good role models.

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

We tend to justify and idealize this division with pride attributing these tendencies as demonstrating a higher level of kedushah.

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/reading-szyks-cards/2012/11/23/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: