Jewish-art

Torah Curtain with a Hebrew Inscription from Psalm 118: “This is the Gate of the Lord through which the righteous enter”. Cairo, Egypt. Early 17th century.

This Torah curtain reflects a well-known type of Ottoman court prayer rug or sajjadah, with a single arch supported by decorated single or coupled columns with faceted bases that appear to be rendered in perspective. The central motif is a menorah in the form of a chalice decorated with nine hanging lamps.

Jewish Amulet: ‘the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night’

This amulet draws on Jewish verse, traditional art and mysticism. The text ‘the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night’ is taken from Psalm 121 (Shir Lamaalot). Inside the amulet are three mythical characters some believe to have protective powers: Sanvai, Sansanvai & Semangelof… These angels first appeared in a Kabbalistic text and have been around for hundreds of years. 

Designed by Meryl Urdang.

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The Szeged Synagogue is a synagogue in Szeged, Hungary. It is a 1907 building designed by the Jewish Hungarian architect Lipót Baumhorn (1860–1932,), whose work is considered to contain the finest examples of the unique fin de siècle Hungarian blending of Art Nouveau and Historicist styles sometimes known as Magyar style. It served Szeged’s large Neolog community.

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Adapting Traditions for Modern Judaical Art with @tobylouketubah

To see more of Toby’s ketubot and other Jewish cultural art, follow @tobylouketubah on Instagram.

San Francisco-based artist Toby Simon (@tobylouketubah) grew up in a house full of Jewish art and with a very creative spirit. “I had a junk box in my room that was filled with things I collected like: berry cartons, straws, ribbons and random bits of plastic.” Later in college, Toby discovered a passion for Hebrew calligraphy and began designing her own Judaical art, featuring references to Jewish culture ranging from menorahs and poetry to modernizing ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract.

“What I love most about a ketubah is that it connects us to our ancestors, but at the same time by modernizing the text we can now include interfaith, secular or same-sex marriages; marriages that were not accounted for in the earliest Aramaic versions,” she says. “As a ketubah designer I feel proud to be a part of this progression.”

A full-time mom with two children, Toby finds time to create early in the morning or during nap time. For the upcoming Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, she continues to adapt tradition. Her menorahs made of fabric and buttons are a “safe way for children to count out the eight nights of Hanukkah with their parents.”

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Havdalah spice container, Germany, late 19th Century.

During Havdalah, a Jewish religious service commemorating the end of Shabbat, the use of all five senses is intended—tasting the wine, smelling the spices, seeing the flame of the candle and feeling its heat, and hearing the blessings. Fragrant cloves, cinnamon, or myrtle leaves are held in artistically decorative spice containers with elaborate metalwork, usually made of tin and silver, and often in the form of towers stylistically influenced by local architecture. 

Louise Catherine Breslau (1856-1927)
“La Toilette” (1898)
Oil on canvas
Currently in a private collection

Breslau would become the third woman artist, and the first foreign woman artist to be bestowed France’s Legion of Honor award. Breslau would go on to become a well-regarded colleague to some of the day’s most popular artists and writers including Edgar Degas and Anatole France. One person who was very special in Breslau’s life was Madeleine Zillhardt, with whom she spent over forty years. Zillhardt, a fellow student at the Académie Julian, became Breslau’s muse, model, confidant, and supporter.

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Necropolis of Hierapolis

Hierapolis, Phrygia, Turkey


The necropolis is one of the best preserved and extensive of its kind in the world. This city of the dead contains tumuli, sarcophagi and house shaped tombs lying stretched along both sides of the road extending 2km to the north. Most of about the 1200 tombs were constructed with local varieties of limestone. The extent of this necropolis attests again to the importance Hierapolis had in the Antiquity. It is worth taking one’s time to wander amongst the tombs, that date from antiquity to early Christian times, and marvel at the ostentation that these residents of Heirapolis afforded to their tombs. It has a fairyland quality.

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Scroll of Esther, Venice, 18th century

This Venetian eighteenth century Scroll of Esther is enclosed within an elegant tubular scrolled filigree case. The cylindrical case of delicate silver filigree is beautifully decorated with floral motifs, with a gilded, flower-shaped element on top. In contrast to its richly ornamented case, the parchment scroll is very simple and has no decorations around the handwritten text. 

U. Nahon Museum of Jewish Italian Art
Gift of Mrs. Zaban in memory of her parents, who were murdered in Auschwitz.
Trieste, 1987 

The History Behind ‘The Woman in Gold’

Easily one of my favourite paintings, by one of my most favourite artists, Klimt’s painting ‘Adele Bloch-Bauer’s Portrait’ is well-known for many reasons. Clearly seen it was created in Klimt’s “golden phase,” this painting is so striking not just for it’s beauty, but also its long and tragic history.

Adele Bloch-Bauer and her husband, Ferdinand Bloch, were close friends with the artist, Gustav Klimt. She modeled for Klimt on numerous occasions, and Ferdinand commissioned two portraits of his wife. The married couple were well-known lovers of art. Adele would entertain many artists at their home - from musicians to painters. The Bloch-Bauer’s were a prominent Jewish family in Viennese society. This is precisely why they were targeted by Nazis in the 1940’s. The Bloch-Bauer’s home was emptied of its beautiful and loved possessions - including Adele Bloch-Bauer’s portrait. Of course, no Nazi could have the portrait of a Jewish woman hanging in their home, so her name was erased from the painting’s history and instead given the title “Woman in Gold.”

Eventually the painting was collected by the Austrian state gallery, and became one of Austria’s artistic ‘Golden Age’ symbols. Her story does not end here, because years later, in 2000, Adele’s niece - Maria Viktoria Bloch-Bauer (Maria Altman) - sued Austria for the ownership of the painting. Maria remembered visiting her aunt’s and uncle’s home throughout her childhood. After Adele died, their visits included a viewing of the gorgeous golden portrait. While Maria later fled Austria and settled in America with her husband, she eventually returned decades later after being told that the painting was rightfully hers. In Adele’s will she had asked that her husband donate her paintings to the gallery, yet in her husband’s will he had left them to his family. After years and years of court hearings and trials, Maria finally won back the painting.

Adele Bloch-Bauer’s portrait now sits in a Manhattan gallery, after being purchased for $135 million (US). This portrait was just one of many that was looted during World War II. Thankfully, the history of the painting, the subject, and her family have the recognition they deserve. It’s tragic that so many pieces of art and family heirlooms are still lost because of the prejudices and crimes of those that abused their power. Those organizations not only wiped out families, but also sought to destroy any memory of them.

Movies and interviews have been made to show people the history of this famous painting, such as ‘Stealing Klimt’ (2007), and the film ‘Woman in Gold’ (2015) which I both highly recommend.

Above: Adele Bloch-Bauer’s Portrait (Woman in Gold, Adele Bloch-Bauer I.), 1907, by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)