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Judaica

THE HISTORY OF JEWISH PAINTING

Cet article se compose de 7 pages.
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It would however be untrue to claim that Jewish painting only started some 150 years ago. In fact despite the second commandment (Exodus XX,4) ordering : «You won't produce any sculpted image » however with this detail : «You won't prostrate yourself before them and you won't serve them » (XX,5), the Jews living in the Holy Land did not bother to have statues erected in their streets or pictural representations in their homes during Roman times. It must also be stressed that their religion provided for the decoration of the sacred tabernacle in the Jerusalem Holy Temple which was notably adorned with two cherubs. King Solomon himself did not hesitate to have an imposing bronze basin called the « sea » standing on 12 sculpted oxen placed in the Temple compound.

After the destruction of the Temple, there was a time of tolerance during which many rabbis would indulge in the use of artistic artefacts while many cities were decorated with statues. Usually synagogues were richly adorned with paintings and mosaics floorings. In the following centuries many Jewish religious illustrated manuscripts were freely produced especially in Southern Europe. The trend was somewhat different in the Middle East as from the Seventh Century when Jews living preferred to abide by the principles of the Moslem religion which banned all figurative images and also during the 12th and 13th centuries in Germany where the representatives of the new ascetic Hassidic movement were opposed to any aesthetic ambition. Instead human faces in manuscripts produced in the Rhine region were shown with bird bills or replaced with the heads of animals.
Nevertheless, many religious manuscripts bore testimony of the brilliant talent of Jewish limners between 1100 and 1500.

In addition, Jewish religious artefacts were often made artistically notably Hanukah lamps, Torah shields, Torah finials, etrog containers, sanctuary lamps, spice towers, goblets and candlesticks. These proved that the Jewish people, as most others in the Middle Ages, had a special liking for art. Many communities would therefore build richly adorned synagogues while individuals would order illustrated religious manuscripts for their personal use. Meanwhile, ritual objects were made accordingly to a true Jewish style that had emerged throughout Europe.

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