web analytics
December 20, 2014 / 28 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 »

The Physics Of Flame Combustion

Weck-121611-Roman

Roman Jewish Catacomb. 3rd century.

A third-century Roman mural from a Jewish catacomb (image four) takes the motif one step further. The painting, which also seems to feature an etrog, shofar, and lulav, has a rare inventiveness and attention to detail. The flames have both blue and red fire, and are either two- or three-pronged in form. It might be no accident that the central flame—which might have been the flame where the divine presence rested symbolically—looks like the Hebrew letter Shin (the first letter of Shechinah, or “divine presence”).

What is certainly not an accident is the flames’ position. The central flame is centered within the middle bowl of the menorah, but the flames on the right are all flush left—i.e. as close as possible to the center—and the flames on the left are all aligned to the rightmost portion of their bowls. More research would have to be done on how likely the artist and patron who commissioned the catacomb were to have known about commentaries on the flames’ orientation to ascertain whether this interpretation was a symbolic or aesthetic choice. But it would be a pretty big coincidence of they didn’t have the Talmud and the Exodus and Numbers texts in mind.

More work would also have to be done on whether there were parallel Christian interpretations of the direction of the menorah flames to figure out whether Christian artists would be inclined to orient flames in any particular direction. A 1493 woodcut of a menorah (Candelabri Luminus) at the Warburg Institute Library by the workshop of Michael Wolgemut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff , for example, shows the following flame configuration from right to left: left, right, left, straight (center wick), right, right, left. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to this order, not even if one seeks Fibonacci sequences.

Tobias Stimmer. “The Altar of Incense and the Golden Lampstand ( Exod. 25, 30, 37 ).” 1576. Woodcut.

A 1576 woodcut by Swiss artist Tobias Stimmer also has a seemingly random configuration, but it also has an overlap of flames—which it turns out is a rather rare element in menorah illustration. Stimmer also depicts the incense altar, and the smoke from the menorah flames combines with the incense smoke, which blows from left to right.

Whether artists intended to follow biblical interpretations is a fascinating question, which is perhaps overlooked, but it also raises a valuable—though comparatively mundane—art question. To what extent have artists, and particularly artists who embellished every sculpted detail of the branches of the menorah, also paid attention to the flames?

The question is particularly worth meditating upon when one realizes that the menorah, however beautiful, was just a tool. The real purpose of the vessel lay in the flames.

Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blog.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.

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.

One Response to “The Physics Of Flame Combustion”

  1. Irwin Ruff says:

    One difficulty with the author’s interpretation is that illustrations are being discussed, and the flames are drawn as the artist preferred. The flames are drawn AS IF candles were being burned (i.e., the flame is rising from the center of the arm, even if they are then distorted). A reading of the pertinent sections of the Chumash, however, indicates that LAMPS were the source of the light. A lamp consisted of a bowl, probably open at the time of the first Temple, mostly closed on top later, filled with oil, and with a wick extending from one side of the lamp (the lamp was never completely round, but usually at least elongated, with a “spout” at one of the narrow points which held the wick). The wick was the only element that was burning. The flame was thus only at one direction relative to the cup of the menorah, and could therefor be oriented in any direction: toward the center arm or to the Holy of Holies. It is possible that the artists did not fully understand the geometry of the menorah.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Posted to Twitter in Ferguson, MO by St. Louis County Police: "Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing."  Their motto is, "To protect and serve."
Prosecutor in Ferguson Case: ‘Witnesses Lied Under Oath’
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 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/the-physics-of-flame-combustion/2011/12/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: