Venda y ojos cubiertos

Investigación de Mariano Akerman

En la cultura occidental, la venda es un signo cuyo valor no es estable ni totalmente unívoco, sino que suele variar en función del tiempo y el contexto al que pertenece una determinada imagen.

Los ojos bien cubiertos, fotografía, 1950

Los ojos cubiertos por una venda son a menudo interpretados como indicadores de ceguera. Mas no toda venda que cubre los ojos de una figura necesariamente implica cegera: tener los ojos cubiertos significa en principio no poder ver (acaso temporariamente) y no por ello es un equivalente automático de estar ciego (de por vida).

A partir de su uso a lo largo de la historia, la venda que cubre los ojos de una figura puede ser un indicador de que la condición de la misma es aquella de una víctima, quien es abusada o ejecutada. Durante el Escarnio del Cristo, sus ojos están cubiertos por una venda. Frecuentemente la víctima que es o se encuentra a punto de ser ejecutada presentan sobre sus ojos una venda.

La humillación del Cristo

Fra Angélico, Cristo burlado, fresco, 1439-43.
Detalle. Convento de San Marcos, Florencia

Matthias Grünewald, El escarnio del Cristo, óleo, 1503-5. Detalle. Alte Pinakothek, Múnich


Francisco de Goya, Los desastres de la guerra, No. 15: "Ya no ai remedio".

Alegoría del Amor

Piero della Francesca, Cupido, fresco, c. 1460. Detalle. Basilica de San Francisco, Arezzo

Cupido. Sandro Botticelli, Alegoría de la Primavera, óleo, c. 1482. Detalle. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florencia

Cupido, porcelana rococó, siglo XVIII

Alegoría de la Fe

Felipe V de España y Alegoría de la Fe

Mariano Benlliure, Alegoría de la Fe, mármol decimonónico. Catedral de Cuenca

Referencias de contexto pictórico y trasfondo general

Fra Angélico
La burla del Cristo, con la Virgen y Santo Domingo, fresco, 1439-43.
Convento de San Marcos, Florencia

Grünewald, El escarnio del Cristo, 1503-5

Cupido. Botticelli, Alegoría de la Primavera, detalle, c. 1482. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florencia

Bruegel el Viejo, Las siete virtudes: Fe (Fides), grabado, 1559. Representada en el marco de una iglesia y junto a la tumba de Jesucristo, la alegoría de la Fe presenta como atributos las Tablas de la Ley y el Evangelio, simbolizando respectivamente el Antiguo Testamento y el Nuevo Testamento.

Alegoría del imperio español luchando contra la herejía. Obra conocida como "El triunfo de la España católica sobre la herejía". El Escorial


Louis I. Kahn: Poetic Dimension to the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem

Appreciation a projectual 3D rendering, with the inclusion of its sources of inspiration, by Mariano Akerman

Subtle digital interpretation by Cerbella & Caponi in Florence

Magnificenza nella configurazione architettonica. Remarkable computarized graphic reconstructions of American architect Louis I. Kahn's Hurva Synagogue Project (first proposal, 1967-68). Digital animation work developed by Francesco Cerbella and Federico Caponi, University of Florence, November 2013 (Giorgio Verdiani, Seminario "Comunicare l'architettura e il design", Università degli Studi di Firenze).

Computarized graphic reconstruction of the Hurva Synagogue after Kahn (phase 1, 1967-68). Digital animation by Francesco Cerbella and Federico Caponi, University of Florence, November 2013 (Giorgio Verdiani, Seminario "Comunicare l'architettura e il design", Università degli Studi di Firenze; piano: Ludovico Einaudi - Ancora).

Abstract. "The video proposed here consists in the reconstruction of the Louis I. Kahn’s first proposal for Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem (the project was developed between 1968 and 1974). Kahn was used to incorporate elements [reminiscent] of […] ruins into most of his architecture, in 1967 he received a commission to [design] the [then] destroyed synagogue [popularly known as the] Hurva, […] Hebrew [term that means] "ruin". For Kahn, this project presented an extraordinary opportunity to express his most deeply felt ideas about architecture. It was his chance to build [a] great Jewish monument at the religious center of the new Jewish state, in the region where the three major Western religions were born. As the world's leading Jewish architect, Kahn was conscious of the huge responsibility of this commission. In this project it is possible to find [several traits] that characterize Kahn’s architecture: a configuration of space as discrete volumes, complex ambient light and shadow, a celebration of mass and structure, the use of materials with both modernist and archaic qualities. [In this project,] Kahn also expresses his concept of wrapping ruins around buildings: "The new building should itself consist of two buildings, an outer one which would absorb the light and heat of the sun, and an inner one, giving the effect of a separate but related building…". The outer building of synagogue recalls some ancient monumental ruin, perhaps from Egypt, or even [another one] from some more [a] remote past now lost to history. The video shows […] the whole [of Kahn's] composition, [… including its] relationship with [some] ancient ruins, [… understood as sources of] inspiration for the project" (Cerbella-Caponi, Contemporary Architecture and Ancient Suggestions - The Louis Kahn's Hurva Synagogue Project, Conference on Cultural Heritage and New Technologies, CHNT 19, Vienna, November 2014).

Sources of inspiration: renderings of Kahn's project

• Francis D.K. Ching, Form, Space and Order, 1979.

Plan of the Hurva Synagogue, by Ching

• Kent Larson, "A Virtual Landmark", Progressive Architecture, September 1993, pp. 80-87

Computarized graphic section of the Hurva Synagogue, by Larson, MIT

Computarized graphic perspective, by Larson

Sources of inspiration: History of Architecture

• David Bruce Brownlee y David Gilson De Long, Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture, Nueva York and Los Ángeles, 1991, pp. 88-89.

Plans of Kahn's Hurva Synagogue and Fergusson's rendering of Solomon's Temple; comparison by Akerman after Brownlee y De Long.

• Mariano Akerman, "The Evocative Character of Louis Kahn's Hurva Synagogue Project, 1967-1974" (1996), in: The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art, ed. Bianca Kühnel, CFJA, 1997-98, pp. 245-53.

Kanh's Hurva Synagogue model compared with the pylons of the Egyptian Temple of Horus in Edfu; compared by Akerman in 1996.


Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani 1936: Sinagoga

WKP: Hurva_Synagogue

• Louis Kahn, Order Is, 1960

• Kent Larson, Louis I. Kahn: Unbuilt Masterworks, 2000

• Mariano Akerman, "The Evocative Character of Louis Kahn's Hurva Synagogue Project, 1967-1974" (1996), en: The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art, ed. Bianca Kühnel, CFJA, 1997-98, pp. 245-53.

• _____. Louis I. Kahn: dimensión poética para la Sinagoga Hurva en Jerusalén

Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved


"No Grotesques in Nature"

Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), sometimes referred to as Stone Man Syndrome, is an extremely rare disease of the connective tissue. A mutation of the body's repair mechanism causes fibrous tissue (including muscle, tendon, and ligament) to be ossified spontaneously or when damaged. In many cases, injuries can cause joints to become permanently frozen in place. Surgical removal of the extra bone growths has been shown to cause the body to "repair" the affected area with more bone.

FOP is a disease that causes damaged soft tissue to regrow as bone.

According to Jo-co's description, "sufferers are slowly imprisoned by their own skeletons."

A case of Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva
Patient with severe bone formation
San Diego, California, 2009

Yet, as Thomas Browne once noted, "There are no Grotesques in nature."

Source: Browne, Religio Medici (1645), pt. 1, sect. 15: "Natura nihil agit frustra, is the onely indisputed axiome in Philosophy. There are no Grotesques in nature; not any thing framed to fill up empty cantons, and unnecessary spaces" (James Eason, Religio Medici, facsimile version, University of Chicago, 2001, p. 28, pt. 15; 13.12.07).

• Related post: Atypical Beings


Talisman in Jewish Folklore


Jerusalem, Bible Lands Museum, Angels and Demons: Jewish Magic through the Ages, May 2010.

New Exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem
Opens Today, 5 May 2010 through May 2011

How do you charm a woman? How do you protect babies against the evil demon Lilith? Why would you bury bowls upside-down at the entrance to your home?

The magical and mysterious world of Jewish incantations, spells and curses will be revealed in the upcoming exhibition Angels and Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages.

This thought-provoking exhibition combines archaeology, folklore and superstition in an all encompassing display of amulets, khamsas, jewelry, manuscripts, books of spells and other mystifying objects.

A new exhibition – the first of its type - has opened this week at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem. Entitled Angels & Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages, the exhibition reveals the magical and mysterious world of Jewish incantations, spells and curses. Exploring the practice of magic in Jewish tradition from ancient times to today through archaeology, folklore and superstition, the exhibition includes an all encompassing display of amulets, khamsas, jewelry, manuscripts and books of spells.

Angels & Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages, examines the origins and development of magic in Judaism from the First Temple period to the present day by focusing on beliefs, customs and, particularly, the practical use of magical objects in daily Jewish life. Belief that the world was filled with supernatural beings and forces such as angels, demons, spirits and the evil eye was common in the ancient world. Indeed, many people today hold to that conviction. Many powers were attributed to these beings that were thought to be responsible for the good, but especially the bad things, happening to people on a daily basis.

Among the rare and interesting items is a child's tunic-shirt discovered in the Cave of Letters dated to the Bar Kochba period (132-135 CE). Thousands of fragments of textiles have been discovered in Israel, but the Cave of Letters was the only one where the phenomenon of tied textile ('sacks') was found. These little 'sacks' contained various items believed to have protective and healing powers and to guard against the evil eye.

Another exceptional object on display is an amuletic textile from Iran. The textile shows a variety of images and symbols that reflect a mix of Iranian Jewish and non-Jewish magical traditions. The names of the ten sons of Haman (villain from the Book of Esther) are inscribed on the fabric. It was believed that all evil directed at the owner of this textile would be deflected onto the ten sons.

Also on display is a rare 2,500 year old marble discus from the Sea of Yavneh-Yam (near Kibbutz Palmahim). This has been identified as representing the cornea, iris and pupil of an eye and was mounted on the bow of a ship to protect the ship, its captain and its crew from the evil eye. There are only four such objects known in the world, two in Israel and two in Turkey.

Many of the artifacts are on loan to this exhibition from private collections and have never before been on public display. The exhibition is enhanced by artifacts on loan from the Golan Archaeological Museum, The Institute of Archaeology of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Israel Antiquities Authority and private collectors.


• Norman A. Rubin, Exhibition Angels and Demons, Fine Arts 360°, 2.5.2010

An exhibition of Jewish Magic through the ages at the Bible Lands Jerusalem – The magical and mystical mysterious world of Jewish incantations, spells, magic, curses and oaths, are displayed in amulets, shamsas, jewelry, manuscripts, books of spells, and other mystifying artifacts and objects.

In the ancient and medieval worlds, Jews were reputed to possess much knowledge about magic: amulets and spells to heal from sickness or harm one’s enemies, mystical incantations to ascend to heaven or bring angels down to earth, and information about the beneficent angels who assisted humans in their fight against the demons of illness and madness. Jewish magic has been part of folk Jewish knowledge and elite rabbinic practice through the years.

In antiquity there flourished among Jews (and other nations of that era) a widespread literature of magic and mysticism. Those people had a fear of the unknown and had turned to supernatural and magical forces, the magic of spells and amulets and incantations to alleviate and solving their personal troubles, by the performance of physical rituals, by the employment of magical herbs as amulets or potions; Written testimony to the magic formulae in Jewish literature can be found in the Bible, the Mishnah, the Talmud, and the Midrashim – and in archeological finds, i.e. in Qumran a fragment of a scroll was found containing magic compositions that was written in the Hasmonaean era.

The magic texts written on amulets and other artifacts, formulae written in sacred books that were to protect man (woman) were also meant to find favor with others, win love and admiration, social success and above all to cure one of illness. Healing of illness was usually was done in the fashion of expulsion of evil spirits, demons, and the evil eye through incantations, religious rites and wearing amulets written for the purpose of curing illness of all sorts – “May the evil spirit, the shadow-spirit, and the demon, both male and female depart from one’s body.” Also the names of the angels or deities are mentioned in which the spells are pronounced; Jewish texts frequently refer to the angels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. The use of magical powers was seen as normal during the Talmudic era, and it was sanctioned so long as the person involved stood within the rabbinic community and used magic for purposes accepted within rabbinic religion.

Note: Occasionally an incantation that was recited by the sages was directed against a specific disease. i.e Malaria was prevalent in that era and the Talmud contains varied prescriptions for treatment for the disease. In the Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 67b there is the distinction made between ‘one-day malaria’, tertian malaria’ and ‘feverish malaria’ (Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition, 1939).

The symbolic hamsa hand (Arabic) or hamesh hand (Hebrew) is an ancient and still popular an amulet for magical protection from the envious or the evil eye and is also known known to draw positive energy, happiness, riches and health. The hamsa (semitic root meaning five) includes five digits and symbolizes the Creator’s protective hand and refers to the digits on the hand. An alternative Jewish name for it is the Hand of Miriam, in reference to the sister of Moses and Aaron. Some hamsas contain images of fish, "the water covers the fish of the sea so the eye has no power over them (Berakhot 55b)." Some hamsa artifacts have the colors red and blue, both of which are said to thwart the Evil Eye. The symbol of the hand, and often of priestly hands, appears in kabbalistic manuscripts and amulets, doubling as the letter ‘SHIN’, the first letter of the divine name 'Shaddai' (one of the names referring to God).

Among the demons best known by the sages was Lillith. According to the Midrash, she was considered to be Adam’s first wife and when they parted she pledged herself to causing great harm for women in childbirth; she is a female demon of the night that supposedly flies around searching for newborn children either to kidnap or strangle them. Also, she sleeps with men to seduce them into propagating demon sons. Lilith abounds in many mythologies which causes difficulty in pinpointing her exact origin. A preeminent mythology is the Jewish folklore, or the Zohar, the book of splendor, a Kabbalistic thirteenth century meditation on the Old Testament, which establishes the Hebraic myth of Lilith, the Kabbalah further enhanced her demonic character by making her the partner of Samael (i.e. Satan) and queen of the realm of the forces of evil. (She represents the deeper, darker fear men have of women and female sexuality, inasmuch as female sexuality.)

Note: The appalling mortality rates of women in childbirth and of newborn children in the Talmudic era lay behind the terror of the demon Lillith.

According to some rabbinic sources, the demons were believed to be under the authority the king of the nether world, either Asmodai or, in the older Haggadah, Samael (“the angel of death”), who kills by his deadly poison. Occasionally in Jewish texts a demon is called “Satan”:” The reality of demons was never questioned by the Talmudists and the late rabbis; most accepted their existence as a fact. Even did most of the medieval Jewish scholars question their reality; demons were still dreaded in medieval Jewish folklore, as documented in the 13th century Sefer Hasidim.

Note: According to Rabbinical theologians there were three types of demons – Shedim (devils) the Mazzikim (harmers), and the Ruah (“spirits”). And there a host of other minor demons and spirits written in the Talmud; the evil creatures that caused migraines (Ruah Palga – Gittim 68b), the demon Ketev mention in the Psalms 91-6 and Deut. 32-24 is responsible for intestinal diseases, especially in the summer months, RuahTazzazit attacks animals and causes rabies and other convulsions (Yoma 83b), and etc…

Demons and evil spirits were thought by the superstitious to quite innumerable. “There numbers outweigh the number of humans on earth. If men were able to see them, none could stand the sight.” (Berakhot 6a).

Whereas the names of angels that have magical apotropaic properties frequently appear on amulets, magical inscriptions and formula. In the bedtime ritual Kriat Sh’ma al ha-Mitah, the angels Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael are invoked for protection through the night.

This thought-provoking exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum combines archaeology, folklore and superstition in an all encompassing display.

Israel - New Exhibition in Jerusalem Highlights Segulas Used Throughout Jewish History, Vos Iz Neias, 3.5.2010. Includes 29 comments.

The exhibition [...] examines the origins and development of magical practices in Judaism by focusing on beliefs, customs and the use of magical objects in daily Jewish life.

Israel - How do you protect babies against the evil demon Lilith? Why would you bury bowls upside-down at the entrance to your home?
The magical and mysterious world of Jewish incantations, spells and curses is revealed starting this this week May 5 in Israel at the upcoming exhibition Angels and Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages.
This thought-provoking exhibition combines archaeology, folklore and superstition in an all encompassing display of amulets, khamsas, jewelry, manuscripts, books of spells and other mystifying objects.

Exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum Looks at Jewish Magic through the Ages, ArtDaily, 4.5.2010

JERUSALEM.- Magic permeates our daily (Jewish) lives to such a degree that life without magic is close to impossible. An interesting fact is that most individuals are unaware that many items in their daily life and many daily actions and beliefs are magical in nature. Examples of this are endless: knocking on wood, tfu tfu tfu, Evil Eye (בלי עין הרע), not naming a child before birth, the amuletic power of the mezuzah, red ribbon bracelet, khamsas, jinxes… These and many more practices have ancient sources. Some have lost their meaning even though they are still used, for example, the magical formula ABRACADABRA, has its roots in the 3rd century CE, and is continuously used even today.

In this exhibition visitors examine the origins and development of magic in Judaism from the First Temple period to the present day by focusing on beliefs, customs and, particularly, the practical use of magic objects in daily Jewish life.

Belief that the world was filled with supernatural beings and forces such as angels, demons, spirits and the evil eye was common in the ancient world and, indeed, many people today hold to that conviction. These forces were attributed with many powers and were thought to be responsible for many of the good, but especially the bad things occurring to people on a daily basis. It was (and is) generally believed that such forces can be coerced into acting on behalf of the applicant. Depending on whether the goal of this coercion was for evil or good, we can distinguish between witchcraft (black magic) and magic (protective magic, or white magic).

Biblical laws strictly forbid the Jewish people from having anything to do with witchcraft (black magic):

"You shall not allow a sorceress to live". (Exodus 22:17)

“There must not be found among you anyone that … uses divination, a soothsayer, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer". (Deuteronomy 18:10-11)

However, (white) magic - i.e. defense against the dark arts, the forces of evil and the damage they cause - was not forbidden in Judaism. This is clear both from biblical and rabbinical writings and from many of the preserved.

The exhibition is enhanced by artifacts on loan from the Golan Archaeological Museum, The Institute of Archaeology of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Israel Antiquities Authority and private collectors.

Ángeles y demonios contra el mal de ojo en el judaísmo, RPP Noticias, Perú, 4.5.2010

La magia empleada en la tradición judía permitió proteger a una parturienta de fuerzas demoníacas, conquistar a una mujer y defender el hogar de vecinos indeseables.

¿Cómo luchar contra el mal de ojo, proteger a una parturienta de fuerzas demoníacas, conquistar a una mujer o defender el hogar de vecinos indeseables? La magia empleada en la tradición judía tiene la respuesta a estas y otras preguntas.
Bajo el título de "Ángeles y Demonios, magia judía a lo largo de los años", el Museo de las Tierras de la Biblia de Jerusalén inaugura mañana una exposición que analiza los orígenes y desarrollo de las prácticas de la magia en la tradición mosaica desde el período del Templo del rey Salomón (siglo X a.C).
Aunque pudiera parecer el título de un best-seller, la muestra es la primera de su tipo en Israel y repasa las creencias del judaísmo marcadas por la existencia de poderes sobrenaturales, ángeles, demonios, espíritus y fuerzas malignas como el mal de ojo, comunes a otras culturas de la antigüedad.
"Es una mirada única de cómo vemos a las fuerzas protectoras contra el mal en este mundo, bien sea para conservar la salud o proteger el hogar", apunta a Efe la directora del museo, Amanda Weiss.
En la exposición se pueden encontrar estatuillas, amuletos, telas y pergaminos manuscritos e incluso material orgánico para realizar encantamientos, pócimas amorosas o luchar contra las maldiciones.
Gran parte de estos objetos fueron usados en la vida cotidiana de las comunidades judías de Europa, Oriente Medio y norte de África.
"Hoy seguimos empleando amuletos contra el mal de ojo como la "jamsa" (símbolo de una mano) y otros que probablemente incorporó el judaísmo desde la práctica islámica", explica Weiss.
Junto a estas populares manos que son sinónimo de buena fortuna, la exhibición presenta unos cuencos con inscripciones que eran enterrados boca abajo debajo de los suelos de los hogares judíos a fin de alejar a los malos espíritus y evitar incendios.
El hecho de que un vecino pueda incordiar hasta hacerse insufrible trae cola desde antiguo y, para luchar contra ello, los judíos empleaban fórmulas cabalísticas que les ayudasen a deshacerse del incómodo huésped, también útiles para repeler a las ratas.
El principio que guía los utensilios contra el mal de ojo es el de un espejo que reflejará la mala suerte, según explican los responsables de la exhibición, que destacan que el "ojo" simboliza lo que otros perciben de uno y provoca la envidia.
"A fin de luchar contra las enfermedades o la mala fortuna se solían dibujar pasajes del Antiguo Testamento o lugares santos en la Tierra de Israel que eran empleados como talismanes", apunta la subcomisaria de la muestra, Ori Meiri.
El Talmud (ley oral del judaísmo) dice que de 100 muertes, 99 son por el mal de ojo y una por causas naturales, lo que explicaría el celo con que el judaísmo cuida una de las etapas de la vida más susceptibles de "la mala fortuna", como es la maternidad.
Así, en la tradición judía no se suele mencionar el nombre del hijo que va a nacer hasta después del parto o incluso la circuncisión y muchos bendicen al bebé con las palabras: "Dios le libre del mal de ojo".
Uno de los mayores temores de las embarazadas más supersticiosas es la figura de Lilit, un ser demoníaco capaz de atacar a los recién nacidos y que según la leyenda, fue la primera mujer creada por Dios, que abandonó el paraíso y a Adán al negarse a ser sometida en el plano sexual.
Para salvar a los pequeños es costumbre invocar a los tres ángeles, Sanoy, Sansanoy y Samanglaf, enviados por Dios para traer de vuelta a Lilit al Edén pero que fracasaron en el intento, pues ella ya se había casado con el diablo.
El tema amoroso y erótico es uno de los que atrae mayor atención, como muestran unas figurillas del período bizantino con forma de mujer con las manos atadas en la espalda y consideradas "muñecas-vudú", expuestas en una sala dedicada a la "magia negra".
La ley judía prohíbe la práctica de este tipo de magia, "a la hechicera no dejarás que viva" (Éxodo 22:17), aunque no la lucha contra los poderes malignos.
La Cábala aplicada también proporciona encantamientos y libros que contienen fórmulas para que una mujer se enamore de un hombre y "su corazón arda de pasión".
Weiss señala que para el judaísmo hay una diferencia entre la práctica religiosa y la superstición, aunque reconoce que a veces sólo las separa una delgada línea. EFE

Angels & Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages, Biblical Archaeology Society, 5.5.2010

The newest exhibit at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, Angels & Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages, opened on May 5th. Designed to explore the origins and development of magic within Judaism, the exhibit is comprised of items relating to folklore and superstition such as amulets, Khamsas, jewelry, manuscripts and books of spells. Beliefs, customs and the practical use of magical objects in Jewish life will be examined beginning as far back as the First Temple Period up until recent times. The exhibit also includes loaned artifacts from the Golan Archaeological Museum, the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Israel Antiquities Authority and numerous private collectors.

Jewish Magic through the Ages, Times of Malta, 5.5.2010

A birth amulet to protect the new born, depicting an angel in the form of a bird and a hamsa, inscribed with a spell against the evil eye and an incantation against the demon Lilith made in Israel in 1864 is exhibited at the Angels and Demons, Jewish Magic through the Ages exhibition.
The exhibition is held at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. It examines the origins and development of magical practices in Judaism from the First Temple period to the present day by focusing on beliefs, customs and particularly, the use of magic objects in daily Jewish life.
The exhibition combines archaeology, folklore and superstition in an all encompassing display of amulets, hamsas, jewelry, manuscripts, books of spells (kaballah ma'asit) and other mystifying objects.

Angels and Demons in Jerusalem, Euronews, 12.5.2010.

A new exhibition – Angels and Demons – has opened at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. The focus is on Jewish magic and mystical symbolism and the display includes artifacts as well as documentation. Entering on the right foot brings luck, as does the hamsa – a symbol shaped like an upside-down hand.
A Jewish magic practitioner Yitzhak Mizrahi explains: "We have many cases in Israel of spirits, like souls of deceased people who don’t move on but stay in the house. That can cause bad luck or phenomena that scare the residents of the house, so we write what we call a Solomon seal. The purpose of this is to release the spirits from the house in order to purify it."
The exhibition distinguishes between what it calls white magic – like amulets containing blessings for health, marriage, easy birth and success in business – and black magic like love spells or spells to make people unwittingly share their secrets.

• Dan Friedman, Jews have been Magic for Thousands of Years, Forward, 19.5.2010

We all believe in magic. Despite 300 years of industrial and social revolution, as well as unparalleled explanation of the natural world through the scientific method, we still throw salt over our shoulders, put up hamsas in our homes, wear lucky shirts to job interviews and run through tested game-day rituals, whether we are playing or watching. The new exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, "Angels & Demons: Jewish Magic Through the Ages," (open for a year from May 5) shows us how deep-rooted and complex those beliefs are.
The majority of the exhibition, which displays artifacts from North Africa, Byzantium and other locales more geographically appropriate for a museum based on the Bible lands, is of the "don’t ask, don’t tell" order of magic. Items and procedures that the rabbis might not condone, but would probably not go out of their way to condemn; spells to cure disease, charms to protect new mothers or newborn children and amulets to ward off evil or infestation were not religiously countenanced, but did little harm. In fact, the most recent amulet on display (placed next to the most ancient item, from the 8th century BCE at the exhibition’s entrance) is a text with specific instructions for use. This text, written in 1992, cured the owner who every day for a week drank water in which the parchment had been steeped and then wore it in a silver holder until the problem was resolved.
Of course, hamsas and other general amulets for warding off the evil eye have always been balanced by specific prescriptions. Most unexpected, at least to this Northern European Jew, were the inverted clay bowls inscribed with spells and, often, pictures that were placed under the threshold of the house to deter spirits and beasts from entering. These, too, varied between the general (fire, rats) and the specific (the angel Sarfiel orders two demons to be exorcised from the household of Kafnay, son of Imma, and his wife, Immay, daughter of Anay).
Black magic that bends others to your will, only plays a small part in the exhibition. But, enticingly hidden behind a black curtain, are the forbidden tools of manipulative magic: potions, curses and poppet dolls. The details of magical coercion are exotic, but the intentions are almost always banal: Hurt your enemies, and seduce objects of desire. In a rare twist, a carved voodoo doll with bound limbs from the Hellenistic Period in Israel (332 C.E. — 37 BCE), is labeled "probably used in erotic magic practices," suggesting that some people were aiming to kill two birds with one stone.
Obviously, magical objects are going to look a little strange from the context of the Jewish mainstream. But even beyond this strangeness, the widespread use of pictures and, in some cases, figures gives these Jewish objects the aura of the pagan. Less so for the illustrated magic books collecting recipes, spells and procedures for mitigating a variety of situations. For a people so obsessed with the divinity of the book, the power of letters is second nature even when it is, strictly speaking, prohibited.
One virtue of magicians is that they, like novelists, have a vested interest in making the unknown seem graphic and terrible. Demons are not cute cartoon characters, but rather furious forces of nature to be dealt with in specific ways. In the magical worldview, Lilith is not a powerful feminist icon but a vicious, vengeful demon who devours newborn babies and spitefully kills their mothers. Specific adjurations need to be crafted, alluding to myths describing her weaknesses and previous promises. The anime-sounding Suni, Susuni and Snigli are in fact powerful angels. By a number of different names alluding to the same myths (in other texts they are called Sanoi, Sansanoi and Samangalof), they have the hex on Lilith and are thus the specific spirits charged with protecting houses with babies and mothers in them.
In the end, the main drawback of "Angels & Demons" is its logistical limitations of space and scope. It’s a shame that such a suggestive exhibition couldn’t be spread out more. The surface of the prevalence, pattern and practice of Jewish magic and its context in the larger world of Mediterranean mythology is barely scratched by this worthy introduction. Samangalof and friends come from an entirely alternative mythical system that would surely enrich our understanding of midrashic traditions. The museum is running a series of events that allows collectors, users and current practitioners of the magical arts to shed light on this marginal but very Jewish narrative. Perhaps, with intervention from either side of the black curtain, such a show might become possible in the future!

• Gwen Ackerman, Lovers enticed, Demons trapped by Jewish Magic Charms, Bloomberg, 20.5.2010

Take some incantation bowls, turn them upside down and bury them under the threshold of your home. Believe they have a little magic and watch them trap demons from entering, and keep the place safe.
The clay and bronze bowls from about 1,500 years ago are among items of superstition on display at the "Angels & Demons, Jewish Magic Through the Ages" exhibition at Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem. A bronze doll, hands tied behind its back, was probably used in erotic practices 2,300 years ago.
In the entrance hangs a more recent amulet personally inscribed for a friend of the curator to heal an illness. According to instruction, she dipped the amulet in water every day for a week and drank the liquid. After the first seven days, she wore the amulet around her neck until she recovered.
"This woman is healthy today," said museum director Amanda Weiss. "Did the amulet do it? You tell me. It is a fascinating concept. What we wanted to look at in this exhibit is what drives us to look for that extra power."
The primary motive is fear, Weiss said.
Some superstitions have transcended the centuries, such as framing amulets made of paper or parchment and hanging them on walls. About 1,900 years ago, mothers tried tying small sacks containing items to a child’s tunic. Now parents pin charms to baby carriages. The items are said to ward off fire, rats and evil.
Weiss says she has hung several hamsas, the sign of a hand that keeps out evil, in her home. "Does that mean my home won’t be safe without them? No. But I happen to think that they add to the positive energy," she said.
Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party has used amulets in its election campaigns, prompting in 2000 an amendment to the election law prohibiting the lobbying to vote or not to vote "via oath, excommunication, promise to bless or giving amulets."
Magic, or mysticism, has a permanent place "in popular Jewish spirituality, which has elicited everything from vociferous opposition to quiet consent, to an actual endorsement," said Jeffrey Woolf, a Jewish-studies lecturer at Bar-Ilan University.
Throughout the centuries, Judaism has allowed for the practice of forswearing “heavenly hosts to do your bidding, especially for something good,” he added. Even in medieval texts there are references to the enlisting of angels to help drive a miscreant out of a community.
Items displayed come from private collections, other museums, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and other Bible Lands exhibits.
They include books containing recipes for love potions, or for concoctions "to get rid of a lousy neighbor," said Weiss.

• Benny Ziffer, A Walk through the Subconscious, Haaretz, 17.9.2010

The exhibition 'Angels and Demons' at the Bible Lands Museum focuses on the rich history of sorcery in Judaism.

There has been a sort of exorcism going on in the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem over the past few months. An exhibit called "Angels and Demons" - curated by gifted Assyriologist Filip Vukosavovic, whose life story would make a great novel - tells the story of this young Montenegrin's love for Israel and his decision to join his fate to that of Jerusalem, by researching incantations and amulets related to Jewish tradition.
The exhibit displays the entire history of Jewish magic, from the early Middle Ages onward, in the form of objects, some of which you wouldn't suspect of being useful for sorcery if it weren't for the explanations provided. These items embody humanity's fears, past and present, in the face of danger. A seemingly shapeless lump of clay turns out to be a little sculpture of a person with its hands and feet tied, signifying the desire of its owner to symbolically bind evil so it won't harm him. And there are angels for all seasons, whose names are no less strange than the powers attributed to them. Their role? To defend people in difficult times, whether from the evil eye, bad health or other problems.
For instance, the angel Serfial, drawn on a Mesopotamian bowl, inscribed with text in Judeo-Aramaic, from the early Middle Ages, looks as though he came straight from painter Paul Klee's brush. Serfial was a "personal" angel, hired to defend Kafnay, son of Imma, and his wife, Immay daughter of Anai, from ghosts in their home. And how poetic and musical are the names of a trio of guardian angels from the kabbalistic Book of Raziel: Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof.
Inscriptions are written on strips of leather, paper, human skulls, coins and knots. What did they protect one against? Scorpions, primarily. "Human" scorpions, no less. This is where black magic enters the picture - a phenomenon as widespread in the Jewish world as it was in general. One of the most famous inscriptions from the biblical period is a curse found at the entrance to a Judean cave from the 7th century B.C.E., which says: "Damned be the cockroach son of a grasshopper by the hosts of God," apparently referring to some unwanted personage in entomological terms.
If visitors to the Israel Museum may be thought to be wandering through the recorded history of the Jewish people, in "Angels and Demons" one walks through its subconscious.

• Michael D. Swartz, Angels & Demons, Biblical Archaeology Society, 16.1.2012

Here is a brief quiz for BAR readers:
(1) What are the two most ancient copies of a Biblical text?
(2) What is the largest body of inscriptions documenting ancient Judaism?
Most BAR readers will know the answer to the first question: The two small strips of silver from Ketef Hinnom containing portions of the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6:24–26. Fewer people, however, may realize these small silver strips were most probably magical amulets. Like many ancient amulets, they were found at a gravesite. See Gabriel Barkay, The Riches of Ketef Hinnom: Jerusalem Tomb Yields Biblical Text Four Centuries Older than Dead Sea Scrolls, BAR 35:04.
The answer to the second question is not so well known: The largest body of inscriptions from ancient Judaism is the collection of more than 2,000 magic bowls from Talmudic Babylonia (present-day Iraq) from the fifth–eighth centuries C.E. These bowls are inscribed in Aramaic with incantations against demons. See Hershel Shanks, Magic Incantation Bowls: Charms to Curse, to Cure, and to Celebrate, BAR 33:01.
Magic—a term usually applied to unauthorized ritual practices to obtain a material benefit for an individual—has flourished in Judaism from Biblical times to the present, despite prohibitions against witches and other practitioners in Exodus 22:17 (verse 18 in English), Deuteronomy 18, and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.1 Jewish magic usually involves invoking the powerful name of God to command intermediary beings, such as angels and demons, to do the will of the practitioner. For centuries Jews have used magical incantations, talismans worn on the body or hung in the house, objects such as curse tablets, and handbooks, for conducting magical rituals to heal a sick person or protect women and babies in childbirth or make a business prosperous. Other curses are used to harm an enemy or cast a spell to make someone fall desperately in love. These latter two often take the same form—adjuring an angel or demon to put a burning fire in the bowels of the intended "victim." In our day, Jewish books, images and Web sites of "practical Kabbalah" can be downloaded from the Internet, and magical charms can be bought in kosher grocery stores.
In 2010 the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem recognized the importance of the magical tradition in Jewish history and culture with an exhibit of amulets, objects, books, manuscripts and ephemera from classical antiquity to modern times. This handsome volume is the exhibition catalogue. It contains rich photographs of the objects—indeed some of the best photos yet available of some texts and archaeological items. It also features essays by some of the finest scholars of Jewish magic, mysticism and art history.
The essays begin with brief surveys of the main historical periods and go on to specific themes. The objects are organized not by historical period but by function (such as "Personal Protection" and aggressive magic, here called "black magic") and by themes, such as "Letter and Word" and "Evil Eye." This organization highlights two important features of Jewish magic: Its cosmopolitan nature and its remarkable continuity. Jewish magical texts and objects closely resemble those of their neighbors, so that instructions found in the Book of Mysteries (Sefer ha-Razim), a magical handbook from the Talmudic period, are very similar to non-Jewish Greek magical papyri of the same era. Jewish magic’s cosmopolitan character is illustrated in the catalogue by magical gems with the names of Jewish angels written in Greek. There are also many examples of the "khamsa," a symbolic hand worn as a pendant or hung on a wall as protection against the evil eye; this same image is found throughout the Middle East.


Jewish Art References

Jewish History and Culture: Fine Art, The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art.

• Wertheimer, Jack, ed. The Modern Jewish Experience: A Reader's Guide, New York UP, 1993. See esp. pp. 228ff.
The pace of scholarly research and academic publication in fields of Judaica has quickened dramatically in the second half of the twentieth century. The major consumers and producers of this new scholarship are found in Jewish Studies programs that have proliferated at institutions of higher learning around the world since the 1960s. From the vantage point of the nineties, it is difficult to fathom that until thirty years ago, Jewish studies courses were mainly limited to a few elite universities, rabbinical seminaries, and Hebrew teachers' colleges. Today there are few colleges at public or private insitutions of higher learning that do not sponsor at least some courses on aspects of Jewish study.
In light of this explosion of research on Jewish topics, non-specialists and educators can benefit from guidance through the thicket of new monographs, source anthologies, textbooks and scholarly essays. The Modern Jewish Experience, the result of a multi-year collaboration between the International Center for the University Teaching of Jewish Civilization and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, offers just such guidance on a range of issues pertaining to modern Jewish history, culture, religion, and society.
With contributions from two dozen leading scholars, The Modern Jewish Experience presents practical information and guidelines intended to expand the teaching repertoire for undergraduate courses on modern Jewish life, as well as a means for college professors to enrich and diversify their courses with discussions on otherwise neglected Jewish communities, social and political issues, religious and ideological movements, and interdisciplinary perspectives. Sample syllabi are also included for survey courses set in diverse linguistic settings. An indispensible resource for undergraduate instruction, this volume may also be used to great profit by educators of adults in synagogue and Jewish communal settings, as well as by individual students engaged in private study.

• Cohen, Richard I. Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe, University of California Press, 1998. With the help of over one hundred illustrations spanning three centuries, Richard Cohen investigates the role of visual images in European Jewish history. In these images and objects that reflect, refract, and also shape daily experience, he finds new and illuminating insights into Jewish life in the modern period. Pointing to recent scholarship that overturns the stereotype of Jews as people of the text, unconcerned with the visual, Cohen shows how the coming of the modern period expanded the relationship of Jews to the visual realm far beyond the religious context. In one such manifestation, orthodox Jewry made icons of popular tabbis, creating images that helped to bridge the sacred and the secular. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the study and collecting of Jewish art became a legitimate and even passionate pursuit, and signaled the entry of Jews into the art world as painters, collectors, and dealers. Cohen's exploration of early Jewish exhibitions, museums, and museology opens a new window on the relationship of art to Jewish culture and society.

• Fishof, Iris. Jewish Art Masterpieces from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Hugh Lauter Levine, 1999. Featuring the world's most comprehensive collection of Jewish art, Jewish Art Masterpieces is a a fascinating survey of Jewish history. Color plates reveal the artistry and craftsmanship of precious objects such as an 8th-century B.C.E. ivory pomegranate from Solomon's temple, an engraved marriage contract from the 15th century, and paintings by modern artists including Marc Chagall and Menashe Kadishman. Illuminated manuscripts, such as the classic Bird's Head Haggadah from 14th-century Germany, are also featured, along with synagogue interiors, Torah decorations, and Sabbath and festival objects. An informative text explores each item's historical, religious, and artistic significance and reminds the reader of the enduring legacy of the Jewish heritage.

The objects are varied, ranging the classic "fine arts" (an oil painting) to useful objects (a prayer stand) to something that isn't an "object" at all (a decorated ceiling). The works hail from Jerusalem, Rome, Italy, Yemen, Germany, Poland, Afghanistan, Spain, Moravia, Turkey, Bohemia, Morroco, and more, yielding insights into rich and varied Jewish cultures.

• Soussloff, Catherine M. Jewish Identity in Modern Art History, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

• Bland, Kalman P. The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual, Princeton, 2001. Conventional wisdom holds that Judaism is indifferent or even suspiciously hostile to the visual arts due to the Second Commandment's prohibition on creating "graven images," the dictates of monotheism, and historical happenstance. This intellectual history of medieval and modern Jewish attitudes toward art and representation overturns the modern assumption of Jewish iconophobia that denies to Jewish culture a visual dimension.
Kalman Bland synthesizes evidence from medieval Jewish philosophy, mysticism, poetry, biblical commentaries, travelogues, and law, concluding that premodern Jewish intellectuals held a positive, liberal understanding of the Second Commandment and did, in fact, articulate a certain Jewish aesthetic. He draws on this insight to consider modern ideas of Jewish art, revealing how they are inextricably linked to diverse notions about modern Jewish identity that are themselves entwined with arguments over Zionism, integration, and anti-Semitism.

Bland has shown that the whole question of whether Jews are 'rtless' is a construction of modern thought, and has little to do with pre-modern Jews. An excellent counterweight to the vast literature that claims that Jews and Judaism are visually handicapped (Steven Fine).

• Baigell, Matthew, and Milly Heyd, eds. Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and Modern Art, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2001.
Complex Identities is a joint effort by American and Israeli scholars who ask challenging questions about art as formed by society and ethnicity. Focusing on nineteenth– and twentieth–century European, American, and Israeli artists, the contributors delve into the many ways in which Jewish artists have responded to their Jewishness and to the societies in which they lived, and how these factors have influenced their art, their choice of subject matter, and presentation of their work. The contributions reflect a broad range of contemporary art criticism drawn from the history of art, culture, and literature. By analyzing how Jewish experiences have depicted and shaped art, the collection begins to answer how art, in its turn, depicts and shapes Jewish experience.

The intersection of visual expression and Jewish experience has long been fraught with ambiguity and confounded by the most basic attempts to define its parameters. Such questions as "what is Jewish art?" or "who is a Jewish artist?" address thorny issues of the role of art in a religion that is traditionally thought to eschew graven images or any figurative representation. In the past, studies of Jews in the plastic arts were frequently attempts to catalog and "claim" as many artists as possible who were born of Jewish parents. Now, however, contemporary studies of Jews and the visual arts are often part of a more sophisticated dissection of Jewish and minority group identity that increasingly cuts across disciplinary boundaries (Lauren B. Strauss, Complex Identities, American Jewish History, Vol. 89, No. 4, December 2001, pp. 464-467).

No effort is made to isolate specific Jewish characteristics in art—there's no search for a "Jewish style." Rather, as the introduction states, "By Jewish art, the coeditors mean an art created by Jewish artists in which one can find some aspect of the Jewish experience, whether religious, cultural, social, or personal." Thus, [...] in each case convincingly, [...] modernism engages the world obliquely, for no explicit Jewish subjects appear in any of these artists' works (Carl Belz, Complex Identities, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2, Winter 2003, pp. 187-189).

Jewish Expression and the Arts, Contact, Steinhardt Foundation, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2005.

Art, Jewish Virtual Library, 2008.

• Rosen, Aron. Imagining Jewish Art: Encounters with the Masters Chagall, Guston, and Kitaj, London: Modern Humanities Research Association and Maney Publishing, 2009.

• Stirling. The Myth of Aniconism: Image, Perception, and Power within Judaic Art: A Brief Examination of Figurative Representation in Conservative and Liberal Jewish Movements, Musings: The Interface Between Art and Society, 2010.

• Long, Rose-Carol Washton, Matthew Baigell, and Milly Heyd, eds. Jewish Dimensions in Modern Visual Culture: Antisemitism, Assimilation, Affirmation, Brandeis UP, 2010.
This collection of previously published scholarly essays analyzes the art world of the late 19th and 20th century regarding its Jewish dimensions. The subtitle is alliterative but arch. The authors concern themselves with revealing the anti-Semitic aspects of the art, the artists, and the critics of the period. Since the book is part of the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry Series, it is focused exclusively on the European landscape, and, not surprisingly, concerned with the stereotypical depiction of Jews by artists (some of whom were supported by Jewish patrons and dealers) and the prejudices of the so-called cultural elite. Some of the topics are interesting because they deal with familiar artists such as Toulouse Lautrec, George Grosz, and Otto Dix or topics such as Dadaism or the Jewish Museum in Prague. (The Dada Manifesto was written by Tristan Tzara, a pseudonym for Shmuel Rosenstock, who along with Man Ray, rejected his Jewish roots.) What is most disturbing is the tracking of the negative attitude toward modern art as being a by-product of the xenophobia developing in Europe and its resulting antiforeign (read, anti-Semitic) attacks. It is well-known that Edgar Degas joined the virulently anti-Semitic anti-Dreyfusards. The Jews were perceived as non-producers, living off the products of others, depicted as financial wizards and demons, and even blamed for Germany’s defeat in World War I. The discussion of the art of the Ecole de Paris, noted for the large number of Jewish, as well as other foreign- born artists working in Paris between the wars who were identified negatively by the French, is well-known in the history of that period. The essay by Romy Golan is a well-documented reiteration.
The collection is divided into three sections, presumably relating to the subtitle: Critical Responses to Modernism and Judaism; Coded Representations; and Affirmation. Included are essays on such disparate topics as Georges Sorel, Julius Meier-Graefe, or Michael Sgan-Cohen’s Hinneni and the Yiddish Group from Lodz in the immediate post-World War I years. The intersection of art and Jewish history in the essay on the Jewish Central Museum in Prague by Dirk Rupnow will be of interest to researchers of the Nazi’s diabolical plans for preserving Jewish culture, especially since it includes new information on the plan and its aftermath. Similarly, those interested in the impact of the Communist era on Jewish artists, whose embrace of their Jewish identity was ironic since they knew almost nothing about Judaism, will find a lucid analysis in the essay by Matthew Baigell on “Soviet Artists, Jewish Images.” Well-known artists, including Vitaly Komar, Mikhail Grobman, and Ilya Kabakov were permitted in limited fashion to explore folklore, the stories of Sholom Aleichem being a primary source of subject matter. Post-World War II architects are discussed in terms of their relationship to the Holocaust.
Each essay concludes with footnotes (more than 50 for most of them) attesting to the extensive research supporting the topics under discussion. In selecting these essays for inclusion in Jewish Dimensions in Modern Visual Culture the editors have provided a nuanced examination of factors in visual art of the modern era that have been influenced consciously or not by historic attitudes toward Jews (Esther Nussbaum).

• Baskind, Samantha, and Larry Silver. Jewish Art: A Modern History, Reaktion Books, 2011.
Covering nearly two millennia, Jewish Art: A Modern History examines the art made by Jews across Europe, America and Israel. Looking at the work of European artists including Moritz Daniel Oppenheim and Maurycy Gottlieb, Camille Pissarro and Marc Chagall, to those in the United States, such as Miriam Schapiro and Eva Hesse, Barnett Newman, and Archie Rand, as well as contemporary Israeli artists, Jewish Art provides a comprehensive, probing and lucid account of a complex subject.
The book provides a chronological, geographic and thematic framework, to examine Jewish artists against the background of an emerging modernity. The shifting Jewish identities are discussed, as well as the effects of the diaspora and anti-Semitism, which are woven directly into analyses of specific works of art.
The authors ask "what is Jewish art?" and examine the ambiguities of the Jewish experience, both religious and cultural. Rather than providing reductive classifications of the subject, they consider the variety of ways Jewish artists have defined themselves and their works.
The book offers a coherent discussion of the vexed question of what constitutes Jewish art today.

The authors of this historical survey of Jewish art [...] are not overly troubled by questions of definition. They accept that no definition of Jewish art has universal validity. Rather than engage in "border policing", separating Jewish art works (or artists?) from the rather greater number of non-Jewish ones, they prefer to identify the "Jewish elements" in artistic identity. This way they seek to avoid "reductive classifications or essentialism". They conclude:

Jews are not just members of a faith, not just members of a community, nor are they even primarily identifiable with a single modern nation state. But their Jewish identity, however determined in all its fluidity and variability, often impresses itself on their actions, including creative participation in the modern art world.

This understanding of Jewishness as a matter of Jewish self-understanding (so to speak) might be thought limitingly personal and neglectful of larger cultural and intellectual -including theological- determinants. But it is perhaps as good a delimiting stratagem as any other and it yields a rich, diverse list of artists for Baskind and Silver to write about (Anthony Julius).

The authors relate the artists and their work to their Jewish experience no matter how slight their religious affiliations may be. Jewish experience is discussed as the feeling of being the "Other" in society, the diasporic effect on one’s identity, the social conscience as a heritage derived from Biblical teachings, the Holocaust as a profound inspiration for powerful images, and the homeland experience of Israel. The text includes discussions of well-known European artists such as Amadeo Modigliani and Chaim Soutine, whose work rarely referenced any Jewish symbols, along with Isidore Kaufmann and Maurycy Gottlieb, representative of several artists whose subject matter is Jewish. It is a given that Jewish artists were influenced by prevailing artistic modes and political climate as proven by such Russian artists as El Lissitzky and Naum Gabo, while others, like Marc Chagall and Issachar Ryback, were inspired by Jewish folk images. The section on American Jewish artists includes the familiar artists, such as Max Weber, Jack Levine, Larry Rivers, Eva Hesse, and Ben Shahn. The real strength of the book is the discussion of lesser known artists such as Henry Mosler, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, Abraham Wolkowitz, and Audrey Flack. The chapter "Art and the Holocaust" includes artists whose images range from horrific to allegorical; in "Home to Israel," the images range from idealized to neo-realism (Esther Nussbaum).

A Jewish literature is easy to identify. But defining Jewish art is a task of Talmudic complexity, as a new book, Jewish Art, makes clear (Adam Kirsh, Seeing Double, Tablet Magazine, 11 October 2011).

• Abramson, Glenda, ed. Encyclopedia of Modern Jewish Culture, Routledge, 2013.

Art in Israel

• Zalmona, Yigal. A Century of Israeli Art (2010), English translation by Anna Barber, Lund Humphries, in association with the Israel Museum, 2013.

Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov, State of the Art: One Hundred Years of Creativity, served on your Coffee Table, Haaretz, 19 August 2013:

[...] A Century of Israeli Art offers an incisive look at Israel’s visual arts and how they reflect a changing society. The original Hebrew version accompanied the 2010 opening of the first permanent exhibition of Israeli art at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. [...]

Heavy both in literary and figurative terms, the text describes local art through the lens of the discourse of identity - or more accurately, identities - in an attempt to follow the development of complex and often contradictory trends that combine to form a distinct Israeli culture. Thus, art, society and historic events are viewed here as intertwined. In the opening words of the author, "Our story will be told with particular attention to the ways in which art derives and receives meaning from its socio-political context. The world, therefore, makes frequent appearances, even if art is our main protagonist." [...]

The conflict between personal expression and the demand for socially involved art can also be an inner one, as touchingly described in the sections on Marcel Janco (‏(1895-1984, whose artistic personality somehow managed to incorporate disparate images and styles deriving from the avant-garde European Dada movement, heroic Zionism, tragic views of war and displacement and pure abstraction.

Attitude toward the East

A core theme that runs through Zalmona’s book is the changing attitude of Israeli artists toward the East, and in particular toward the image of the Arab, versus their relationship with the West. Discussing this issue in relation to the earlier works in the book, Zalmona writes: "In some respects, the Zionist view of the East is a specific example of Orientalist ideology, that is, of a Western perception of the East. At the same time, however, the East is the ancient source of the Jews' history and ultimate destination as they return to that source ... And to complicate the question of who identifies with whom even further, the Jew knew that in Europe, he himself was the Semitic Other. In other words: For Christian Europeans, the East was just 'there'; for the Jews, it was simultaneously 'there' and 'here.'"

The descriptions and analysis of numerous artworks in the book refer to this tension. For example, in The Four Matriarchs, by Abel Pann (1926). This European-born painter imagined the biblical foremothers as a group of Bedouin women, natives of the East, yet portrayed them using Western realistic painting techniques.

Reuven Rubin celebrated the birth of the Zionist pioneer as the "new Jew" in First Fruits (1923), using the Christian format of the triptych to lend sanctity to the scene, yet eschewing Western perspective in favor of a simpler and more innocent Eastern ‏(including Eastern Christian‏) view of the landscape and its inhabitants. The latter include the muscular and partially undressed pioneering man and woman, bearing the fruits of their labor. To their left is a modestly dressed Yemenite Jewish couple with a naked baby, who are also presented as part of the middle panel, reflecting the central theme of Jewish re-connection with the land. Their Easternness renders them "authentic representatives of the pre-exilic Israelite nation," contrary to many images of Diaspora Jews of European origin, often depicted in the period’s works as sickly and frail, such as is in Rubin’s own self-portrait from before his immigration to Palestine. The two side panels of the triptych portray the Arab inhabitants of the land; they are extolled for their perceived physicality and harmony with nature, yet, in contrast to the Jewish pioneers, they are passive and unproductive, either herding sheep or merely sleeping.

In the sculpture named after the biblical hunter Nimrod (1939) Itzhak Danziger turned to pagan and mythical figures of the ancient Near East, circumventing the image of the Arab through what Zalmona calls a "cultural bypass," to create a new Hebrew icon that severs its connections to the Jewish past.

Many pages and decades later, Tsibi Geva’s handling of the keffiyeh pattern in the traditional Arab headdress ‏(Keffiyeh: Homage to Asim Abu Shakra, 1992‏) is described by Zalmona as evoking a myriad of diverse political, cultural and artistic identities: for Palestinians, a symbol of resistance to Israel; for Israelis, both a threatening signifier of violence, yet also a reminder of a not-so-distant past when it was worn by sabra farmers and fighters as a sign of belonging to the land and region. The dialogue with the keffiyeh is further deepened when analyzed through an art historical perspective: On the one hand, it is a flat, Eastern decorative pattern that comes from "low" folk art; on the other, a grid, which is the basic template of American modernist abstract art in its search for the sublime. In Zalmona’s reading, though Geva realized that he could not escape his Western artistic consciousness, he could comment about himself and his attitude to the East through expropriating motifs such as the keffiyeh and using them in a Western artistic discourse, enabling viewers "to experience the chronic Israeli vacillation between identities."

The above small taste from this extensive volume reveals how Zalmona chooses to tell the story of Israeli art and some of the premises on which the book is founded. The time frame in its title asserts that a distinct body of work called Israeli art came into being with the modern Zionist movement. Since this movement was led mainly by male European Jews with a secular outlook, seeking to build a new identity in the Land of Israel, their ideological and aesthetic preferences dictated the works deemed central to the new culture-in-the-making, and these are the works most highlighted in these sections of the book.

Though local women artists are featured relatively prominently, other outlooks and works - pre-Zionist, Eastern, and both local religious Jewish and non-Jewish ones - are given marginal, perhaps token, attention throughout most of the book. When they are included, they fulfill the role of "others" in relation to the main drama.

Overturning the narrative

It is in the latter part of A Century of Israeli Art, describing contemporary art, when certain divergent viewpoints and identities receive in-depth consideration. These are specifically the ones presented as overturning the hegemonic Israeli narrative - a change in emphasis that says a lot about the ideological transformation that the Israeli cultural elite, of which the author is a member, has undergone, while also reflecting worldwide post-modern tendencies. Works that are read by Zalmona as representing post-Zionist approaches are now granted center stage, and even regarded as representing the mainstream mindset among today’s young Israeli artists. In this context, he presents Adi Ness’ photographs of male soldiers as "critiques of the mythology of the Israel Defense Forces," in their subversive stance toward the ethic of self-sacrifice, as well as through their hints of homoeroticism.

It is intriguing to contemplate who the current unfashionable-yet-serious others are, whose work is now being marginalized - certainly not those who forgo complexity and questioning, but perhaps those who reject such a sweeping definition as "the paralyzing ideological charisma of rootedness" ‏(which Zalmona deems one of the causes of today's artists' attraction to previously taboo themes‏), and who seek new forms of community and belonging. A search for connection may then become visible from within works previously interpreted as primarily deconstructing an existing ethos, such as many of Ness' photographs.

Sigalit Landau’s DeadSee [2005], the penultimate image in the book, offers a potent metaphor for re-framing the linear passage from wholeness to disintegration that is traced in Zalmona’s account, into a cyclical and unending one, as the circle of floating watermelons and body unravels but is then recreated ‏(and unraveled again‏).

The above discussion of meaningful voices from past and present that are absent from A Century of Israeli Art does not discredit its content but rather opens the door to different ones. Documenting a relatively new canon of art should be done via the acknowledged artists and movements within it. It is then the role of those unseen and unheard to question that canon and tell their alternative stories.

In terms of structure, A Century of Israeli Art progresses chronologically, divided in large part into chapters devoted to individual decades. Thankfully, this structure is not adhered to strictly, and cross-cutting themes, short biographies of individual artists, and in the case of the statue Nimrod, a definitive work of art, are allowed to deviate from the form. Though at times this reader felt that an obligation to include all "famous" Israeli artists threatened to weigh down the book, for the most part it manages to transmit an enormous amount of information while relating a deep art-historical saga. This feat is accomplished by maintaining a close connection with the visual experience throughout, giving great respect to the artworks themselves, and drawing insights from their detailed study. Indeed, there are moments in the book that remind us that alongside awareness of the socio-political context of art there remains the basic and personal experience of a viewer being moved by a single work, such as the two loving and poetic pages devoted to Yehezkel Streichman’s 1951 Portrait of Tsila - a study of the makings of home, family and painting itself, all in an intimate Tel Aviv interior.

Other items to explore
Hand of God
Wharhol's Chosen People


Art and the Holocaust

Art in the Ghettos and the [Concentration] Camps during the Holocaust
by Pnina Rosenberg

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they banned all art which they regarded as subversive – i.e., modern, avant-garde, Communist, Jewish, Negro – or to use their term, degenerate. The fate of this art and its creators was very clear: both should be eliminated from society. Degenerate works of art were removed from museums, galleries, and other collections; Jewish artists were not allowed to pursue their careers, lost their teaching positions, and were permitted to display their works only in the premises of the *Juedischer Kulturbund. These degenerate works were assembled and put on show in Munich 1937 in the exhibition called "Degenerate Art" (Entartete Kunst), which was accompanied by vulgar and provocative quotations, accusing the artists of causing all the malaise of society and the world, thus warning the public of the dangers of such subversive artists.

Although Nazi laws should have been fully implemented in the concentration camp world, in many camps artistic creativity flourished and some of the works produced there were shown in exhibitions. Thus, ironically, the only place where these undesirable artists could produce and exhibit art was in their place of confinement.

During the Holocaust a tremendously rich variety of works of art were produced in the ghettos, hiding places, and camps of Nazi-occupied Europe. It was produced in extermination camps like Auschwitz, in the "model" camp of There-sienstadt, in transit camps like Westerbork in the Netherlands and Malines in Belgium, and in the network of camps set up throughout France, such as Drancy and Gurs. All these artists, whether professional or amateur, men or women, young or old, had one thing in common – they had been labeled undesirables, interned in the camps, cut off from society, and ordained to be victims of the Nazi Final Solution.

Artistic creation fulfilled many functions. It gave the artists a sense of self-assurance and allowed them to feel some connection with their past life as artists. It provided a way to pass the many hours of enforced idleness. It had barter value – the paintings that were commissioned by other inmates or by camp officials could be exchanged for food or other favors (such as smuggling out mail or some other improvement in conditions). Above all, art was the only means whereby the inmates could protest against their situation. They hoped that their protest would be heard beyond the barbed wire fences in the outside world, with the help of clandestine couriers mainly from the various welfare organizations and religious representatives who were permitted to enter the camp. Most of the paintings have documentary value, as the artists were aware of the necessity of recording for posterity the world in which they were imprisoned. Art, of course, does not merely portray an objective reflection of reality, but rather shows it through the personal prism of the artist. In other words, the works of art reflect the changing moods and feelings of the inmates/artists/witnesses.

Although the ghettos and the camps were isolated from each other certain themes were prevalent in these works of art. They include depictions of the barbed wire fences and the watchtowers, views of the camps, the daily routine, such as searching for food, attempts at personal hygiene, sickness and death, as well as landscapes and portraits. The common element in all these works is the need to portray and document in the closest detail the tragic and absurd circumstances in which the inmates found themselves. Such a situation was completely unforeseeable and the inmates were in no way prepared for this unimaginable nightmare which recurred in all the various ghettos and camps.


The works that survived, frequently as the result of astounding resourcefulness, had these common themes regardless of whether they had been produced in Eastern or Western Europe, by professional artists or amateurs. About a quarter of the works are portraits, a fact that is not surprising. Portraying a face or a figure was in itself an act of commemoration, confirming the existence of the individual in a world where existence was so uncertain and arbitrary. These portraits were often used to send greetings to inmates' relatives, to show that they were alive and well. This explains why we frequently find the name of the subject of the picture next to the artist's signature, along with the date and place. It also explains why the figures in the portraits have a slightly better appearance than in reality, for the artist wanted to send a positive message and not show the misery of their situation. These portraits are in many cases the last record of people who soon afterwards were sent to their deaths.

Aizik-Adoplhe Féder (Odessa 1887–Auschwitz 1943) was interned in Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris, where he drew portraits of people from all walks of life who were interned in the camp – workers and intellectuals, observant Jews, women, teenagers, children and infants. Most of the inmates, especially the women, look well, and, except for the additional verbal information alongside the portrait – date and location of the work – there is no indication that the subjects are imprisoned in Drancy, a camp that was also known as the ante-chamber of Auschwitz.

Féder was part of the "Ecole de Paris," a group of artists, most of them Jews, who immigrated from Western Europe to Paris, hoping to establish their artistic careers there. Many of those artists such as *Benn (Ben-Zion Rabinowicz; Bialystok 1905–Paris 1989), Abraham-Joseph Berline (Niejine, Ukraine 1894–Auschwitz 1942), Jacques Gotko (Gotkowski; Odessa 1900–Auschwitz 1943), David Goychman (Bogopol, Ukraine 1900–Auschwitz 1942), Isis-Israel Kischka (Paris 1908–Paris 1973), Savely Schleifer (Odessa 1881–Auschwitz 1942), and Zber (Fiszel Zilberberg; Plock, Poland 1909–Auschwitz 1942) were interned in various French camps such as Compiègne, Beaune-la-Rolande, Pithiviers, and Drancy, where they portrayed their co-inmates as well as themselves. The portraits usually carry identifying inscriptions, such as Kischka's Portrait of Uze, Internee in the Compiègne Camp, 29/3/42, or Portrait of Goychman by Kischka, 787122, 20/3/42, giving the artist's camp identification number alongside his name as a signature. Some of the portraits bear moving dedications, which attest to their amicable relationship.

Malva Schalek (Prague 1882–Auschwitz 1944), a daughter of a well-to-do, cultured Jewish family in Prague, established her reputation as an artist in Vienna, specialized in portraits, and was interned in Theresienstadt, where she continued painting her fellow inmates. Many of the portraits Schalek produced in the camp were commissioned, and she received food in payment, a practice which was not uncommon. Artists were commissioned by both inmates and by camp and ghetto administrators, in most cases asked to copy portraits of relatives from photographs or do their own likeness. In turn they received favors like better food or smuggled clandestine letters. This was experienced and attested by many artists such as Halina Olomucki (Warsaw 1919– ), who while interned in the Majdanek camp was commissioned by the head of the block to decorate the walls of the building. In return she received improved food rations. She used some of the materials she was given officially to paint her fellow women inmates clandestinely. From Majdanek she was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and there too she was a "commissioned artist" for the Germans. For this she received more substantial food, which helped her to survive. Esther Lurie (Liepaja, Latvia 1913–Tel Aviv 1998), while interned in the Kovno (Kaunas) ghetto, was commissioned by the Council of Elders (Aeltestenrat) to record ghetto life; to this end they arranged that she would not be engaged in any forced labor; later on when, while interned in Stutthof, the artist was asked by women inmates who had boyfriends to draw their portraits in return for a slice of bread. The painter-musician Isaac Schoenberg (Colmar, Alsace 1907–Auschwitz 1942), who was interned in Pithiviers, wrote to his beloved in Paris that he had to decline some of the inmates' requests to do their portraits, although he was paid more than the other artists in the camp, since he was engaged in producing her likeness from photographs, an activity which enabled him to endure life in the camp. Even amateur artists such as Etienne Rosenfeld (Budapest 1920–Paris 1995) were commissioned by their fellow inmates to draw their or their relatives' portraits, as is attested in his letters from the Drancy camp.


Another theme was the portrayal of the camps, particularly the barbed wire fences and watchtowers, which over time have become symbols of the Holocaust. They were part of the everyday experience of the prisoners, a constant reminder that they were confined in a closed camp, cut off from the society of which they had been an integral part up to a short while before. The barbed wire fences are a dominant element in many pictures. They appear in landscapes and genre paintings, while in some cases they have become the actual subject of the picture. Sometimes the fences are shown as a spider's web in which the figures are entangled, as, for example, in the aquarelle by Lou Albert-Lazard (Metz 1895–Paris 1969), depicting women imprisoned in the Gurs camp (France). Albert-Lazard, a German Jew who immigrated to Paris in the 1920s and was interned as a German alien, portrays the women as trapped by the barbed wire fence. Despite the delicacy of the painting, the barbed wire fence restricts their movements and closes in on them like a wall. The imprisoning barbed wire fence and the threatening watchtower, with an all-seeing eye at the top, are the central elements in the drawings and prints done by Jacques Gotko. At times, there is even an element of humor, with the artist painting laundry hung out to dry on the fence, as did the amateur artist Hanna Schramm (Berlin 1896–Paris 1978), a socialist activist who had sought refuge in France and was interned in Gurs on the outbreak of the war and depicted the miserable life there in ironic-humoristic drawings. But, however depicted, the prevalence of this motif stresses the sense of confinement the inmates experienced.


The forced communal life in ghettos and camps meant living in extremely crowded conditions with the need for privacy denied, no matter what race or sex the inmates were or what social standing they had enjoyed in their previous existence. The feeling of suffocation and the lack of private space is depicted by Malva Schalek in various aquarelles she produced in Theresienstadt. In many of her paintings she depicts the activity, or lack of it, in the camp. Sometimes she draws the interior as crowded and claustrophobic, with women and children lying or sitting on the triple-layered bunks, surrounded by bundles and suitcases. In others she portrays inmates reading or lying down. Similar depictions were produced by Osias Hofstaetter (Bochnia, Poland 1905–Ramat Gan, Israel 1994), who immigrated to Belgium, from where he was sent, after the Nazis invaded this country, to the French internment camps of Saint Cyprien and Gurs, where he depicted the forced idleness of men in and out of the barracks, as well as the overcrowdedness.

Some interior scenes, as those done by Jane Lévy (Paris 1884–Auschwitz 1943) in Drancy or Emmy Falck-Ettlinger (Lubeck 1882–Bet ha-Shtitah, Israel 1960) in Gurs, are characterized by extreme order and cleanliness. They depict kitchen utensils and personal items, a kind of desire to create a feeling of intimacy, warmth, and domesticity. Yet these works evoke a feeling of desolation and emptiness which even the domesticity of the interior cannot overcome.

Countless paintings show everyday, routine activities – bathing, washing one's hair, going to the toilet – since these basic human acts could no longer be taken for granted in the surroundings the inmates now found themselves in. Bathing was extremely difficult, as the water supply was completely inadequate for all the inmates and available only a few hours a day and often had to be done outdoors. Going to the toilet was no less embarrassing. The most intimate bodily functions had to be performed in public, adding to the dehumanization of the inmates. This may seem trifling compared to the acts of mass murder that were taking place at the time, but it should be remembered that the daily life of the inmates consisted in trying to meet the numerous "trifling" needs that are basic to civilized human life.

Many artists depict these activities, sometimes in humoristic drawings or aquarelles. Karl Schwesig (Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 1898–Duesseldorf 1955), a German communist who had fled from Germany after Hitler's rise to power and was a political refugee in Belgium, was interned in four different French camps. From his vast experience he depicted daily life, which became worse with the time. Many of his drawings illustrate the way the inmates were cooped up with a lack of hygienic facilities, as did other artists in the various camps – all attesting to the embarrassment and humiliation which accompanied these activities.


The inmates suffered constantly from hunger, which weakened them both physically and mentally. Hunting for food was one of the main occupations of the camp inmates. Many paintings portray the subject of food, or the lack of food, ranging from lining up to get the daily rations (Leo Haas, Opava, Czechoslovakia 1901–Berlin 1983), to guarding a scrap of bread as though it were a treasure (Lili Rilik-Andrieux, Berlin 1914–San Diego 1996), to rummaging through the garbage to find a bite to eat that might ease the pangs of hunger (Karl Schwesig; Sigismond Kolos (Vary, Transylvania 1899–?)). Pictures of this last scene serve to illustrate again the degradation that was forced upon the camp inmates.

In the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum at Auschwitz, there is a Memories Calendar (Kalendarz wspomnień) comprising 22 small drawings (18 × 10 cm), produced in Auschwitz in 1944 by Ewa Gabanyi, prisoner no. 4739. Gabanyi was born in Czechoslovakia to a Jewish family and interned on April 3, 1942. The pictures in her calendar are mostly theatrical and fantastic – surrealistic dances and balls, elaborate costumes, weird animals, and exotic scenery. One picture stands out as completely different, as she depicts a woman prisoner in her striped dress eating soup, with the inscription First soup in the camp (Zjada pierwswą Zoupkę Lagrową), dated April 27, 1942; hence her first hot meal came three weeks after her arrival in Auschwitz. A picture that seemed completely naturalistic turns out to have a surrealistic aspect in the world of the camps.


The huge numbers sent to camps and from there deported to the death camps were portrayed by various artists such as Dr. Karel Fleischmann (Klatovy, Czechoslovakia 1897–Auschwitz 1944) and Charlotte Buresova (Prague 1904–Prague 1983) in Thereisienstadt, David Brainin (Kharkov, Ukraine 1905–Auschwitz 1942) in Compiègne, Kurt-Connard Loew (Vienna 1914–Vienna 1980), and Julius-Collen Turner (Schivelbein, Germany 1881–?) in Gurs, and Leo Maillet (Leopold Mayer; Frankfurt-am-Main 1902–Switzerland 1990) in Les Milles. In these pictures the artists usually depict faceless masses rather than individuals being sent on their last journey. Yet in several pictures, amidst the endless lines of people stretching beyond the horizon, the artist reveals the face of one of the deportees, often a child clinging to its mother or a disabled old person guarded by soldiers with pointed weapons. These scenes depict with bitter irony the imbalance of power – the innocence and the helplessness of the deportees versus the power of the executioners.


The camps were often situated in beautiful areas, with snow-covered mountains in the distance or picturesque seaside villages, which were in sharp contrast to the misery of the life within the barbed wire fences (e.g., Karel Fleischmann, Karl Schwesig, Lou Albert-Lazard). Many artists painted these views, which provided them with a kind of connection with the outside world. The colors of a beautiful sunset, while serving to remind them of ordinary life, also brought home the indifference of nature to their suffering.


Artists sought to use their work as means to make contact with the outside world and let people know what was happening "on the other side of the fence." They did this despite the danger inherent in such activity, as can be seen in the fate of Leo Haas and Dr. Karel Fleischmann, inmates of There-sienstadt, who paid a high price for their efforts to smuggle their works out of the ghetto. In preparation for a visit of the Red Cross in summer 1944, the Germans searched the artists' quarters. They did this because they realized that the truth about their "model ghetto" was likely to be revealed in paintings being smuggled out of Theresienstadt. The artists refused to talk and after being interrogated and tortured were taken to a Gestapo prison. Eventually they were deported to Auschwitz, where Fleischmann died.

Contact with the outside world was of tremendous importance to the camp inmates, and in many cases it was art that paved the way. In some camps, such as Gurs and Compiègne, exhibitions were held. These exhibitions were visited by the Nazi administration and, in some cases, members of the public from the surrounding area. The inmates felt, for a brief moment, as if they had broken through the fence and were involved in the outside world. It should be noted, however, that these events were not mentioned in the press, which used to stress that the camp inmates were parasites and profiteers. Presenting them as creative and productive would not have fit this negative stereotype.

Artists arrived in the camps from all over Europe, from cities, towns and villages and from all levels of society. As we have seen, despite the artistic variety of their work, one unifying factor was common to them all – they all portrayed the grim reality and their cruel experiences, with a sense of longing for their former world which had disintegrated so totally.

The art of the Holocaust is unique in the history of art. In a state of hunger and destitution, with death a constant part of their daily existence, hundreds of artists did not allow the spark of the human spirit to be extinguished. In the universal language of art they portrayed the images of one of the darkest periods in human history.

Bibliography. Z. Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts (1993); J. Blatter and S. Milton, Art of the Holocaust (1982); H. Fenster, Nos artistes martyrs (Undzere Farpainikte Kinstler) (Yid., 1951); M.S. Costanza, The Living Witness: Art in the Concentration Camps and Ghettos (1982); G. Green, The Artists of Terezin (1969); M. Novitch, Spiritual Resistance: Art from Concentration Camps 1940–1945. A selection of drawings and paintings from the collection of Kibbutz Loḥamei ha-Getta'ot, Israel. Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Philadelphia (1981); P. Rosenberg, L'art des Indésirables: l'art dans les camps d'internement français 1939–1944 (2003).

Art Influenced by the Holocaust
by Ziva Maisels

Reactions in the visual arts to the Nazi persecution of the Jews paralleled Adolf Hitler's rise to power and continue to this day. Unlike Holocaust Art – a name that designates the art produced by inmates in the ghettos and concentration camps (see above) – art that responded to the Holocaust has no clear name and its definition is highly complex. It was created by survivors as well as by refugees who fled to the free world before or during the war; by camp liberators who discovered the shocking truth of the Holocaust for themselves; by the children of survivors or refugees who carry in themselves the burden of memories, pain, and guilt transmitted to them from their parents; and by non-participants who may have lost relatives in the Holocaust or were simply shocked by it or by the idea that its lessons remain unlearned. Some artists reacted immediately, occasionally even anticipating events to come. Others – including survivors who had tried to turn their backs on their past – reacted to events that triggered their emotions: the discovery of the camps, the Eichmann trial, Israel's wars, or other examples of genocide. Such artists came from all religions – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. – and all nationalities, including Germans (e.g., Anselm Kiefer) who wish to express their own stance on the subject or to atone for the past. For some, the Holocaust was a specific event occurring in a set period of time; for others, it was an archetypal event which could be used to comment on other catastrophes – Hiroshima, genocide in Africa, or the Aids epidemic.

Moreover, artists had different motivations in using this subject. Some, such as Corrado *Cagli, documented the scenes on the spot or – like Audrey Flack and Nancy *Spero – on the basis of photographs, while others (for instance, William *Gropper and Leon *Golub) emotionally denounced cruelty and mass murder. Whereas survivors and their children often used art as therapy to recover from the past, most artists used it to make sure that the Holocaust would be remembered by memorializing it. Many reacted by affirming their Jewish identity, at first by depicting figures in prayer or the shtetl, as in the works of Max *Weber. More recently a few artists (such as Judy *Chicago) have begun to see the Holocaust itself as their sole means of Jewish identity. Still others, for example, Mark *Rothko and Karel Appel, responded in a highly personal manner by changing their style and subject matter in ways that are not self-evidently connected to the Holocaust but are revealed to be reactions to it on the basis of the artists' statements.

The artists' goals were often linked with the styles they chose to employ. For instance, Realism was used in witness reports as a means of confronting the spectator with the facts and convincing him of their truth, while Expressionism was used to express anger and heighten the denunciatory power of the work. Surrealism was often used to convey the idea that such events were taking place on "another planet," whereas Abstraction was a means of distancing the artist from the Holocaust and allowing it to be confronted from a safe place.

Although painters and sculptors had been working on the subject since 1933, it was the photographs and films taken by the liberators in 1944–45 that had the most immediate and lasting impact on the public at large. Appearing in magazines and newsreels, these reports turned everyone into a witness. It is for this reason that the most common images of the Holocaust in the public imagination are those they recorded: the mounds of corpses, the bald and emaciated survivors barely able to move, and the inmates crowded together behind barbed wire or in their bunks. Some of these images still inspire artists today (for instance, in the paintings of Natan Nuchi), but this source material has now been broadened to include the Nazis' own documentary snapshots of the ghettos, deportations, and executions as well as the identification photographs they took of the camp inmates, a type that influenced Aaron Gluska. Today new documentary photographs have been taken by artists who visit the camps. These images differ from the older ones in showing the camp as empty and clean, well-preserved monuments rather than the hellholes they were.

Several common motifs and themes run through all categories of Holocaust-related art. The primary image of the camp from the mid-1930s was of people behind barbed wire, an image used by John Heartfield because one of the few facts known then about the camps was that they were surrounded by barbed wire fences. This representation was reinforced after the camps were liberated, as photographers such as Margaret *Bourke-White took their stance outside the fence looking into the camp. The image was so pervasive and clearly understood that it could be suggested by including a single piece of barbed wire into an abstract composition, as was done by Igael *Tumarkin. Another primary symbol was the refugee, a subject documented by the refugees themselves (e.g., Marc *Chagall) and by those who wanted to state their plight. This image was transformed after the war by artists such as Lasar *Segall into that of the displaced person to represent survivors who were trying to find a place to stay. This subject slowly disappeared after 1948, as the State of Israel was seen as having solved this problem. It has recently been reinstated, as in a painting by Joan Snyder, in an attempt to identify Palestinian refugees with the victims of the Holocaust. Another image that was popular during the war was that of the Jewish partisan, especially those who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising depicted in the monument by Nathan *Rapaport. Upheld at first as an image of Jewish pride in resistance to the Nazis, it was eventually supplanted by that of the Israeli soldier.

Other symbols became common only after the war, for instance the symbolic use of the crematorium chimney and the image of emaciated corpses or survivors, themes that grew out of the experience of liberating the camps and understanding what had happened there. Whereas the chimney and the survivors were relatively easy for Friedensreich Hundertwasser and George Grosz respectively to handle, the corpses were repugnant and many artists followed Pablo Picasso's lead in translating them into more stylized images. On the other hand, artists such as Zoran Music and Robert Morris later specifically portrayed the corpses in all their expressive reality to awaken the failed conscience of the modern world that continues to commit genocide.

All the above symbols were taken from the camp experience. But artists who were interested in learning moral lessons from the Holocaust also culled other images from religion and mythology to convey their ideas. Thus the victim can be portrayed through biblical symbols, such as the sacrifice of Isaac or Job who questions God, as in the works of Leonard *Baskin and Jakob *Steinhardt respectively. These subjects could also be used to vent anger against God for allowing the Holocaust to happen, as in the work of Mordecai *Ardon. Marc Chagall led the way in depicting the victims as the crucified Jewish Jesus, in an attempt to make Christians understand what was occurring. Resistance to Nazism was symbolized by Jacques *Lipchitz by means of David slaying a Nazi Goliath and Prometheus slaying the vulture.

The portrayal of the Nazis was more difficult: their portrayal as monsters or demons as in the works of Marcel *Janco ignores the fact that those who carried out the Holocaust were human beings. However, portraying them realistically as humans, as Gerhart Frankl did, underplays the horrific dimensions of their deeds. Beginning with Lipchitz, some artists concluded that the problem lay not only with the Nazis, and used their art to warn mankind that there is a beast lurking within us which must be tamed lest we cause other holocausts. Others, such as Matta and *Maryan Maryan, took a more pessimistic view of man's monstrous nature and portrayed ambiguous figures whose nature cannot be clearly defined as good or evil.

The Holocaust also prompted Jewish artists to take a renewed look at their Judaism. While some affirmed their faith and Jewish identity and others expressed their anger against God, a few stressed their lack of faith in the future of Judaism. Thus Samuel *Bak depicted a destroyed and patched-up Ten Commandments that will never be the same. Whereas the establishment of the State of Israel was at first seen by artists such as Chagall and Lipchitz as an answer to the Holocaust and a solution to the problems it caused, Israel's continuing wars – especially the threats to its existence in 1967, 1973, and 1991 – led artists such as Erich Brauer to see in each event a potential renewal of the Holocaust. Moreover, the resurgence of antisemitism in the 1980s caused R.B. *Kitaj and George *Segal to begin to deal with the Holocaust.

On the other hand, the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians since 1967 have caused left-wing artists to adapt Holocaust imagery to this issue, with the Palestinians replacing the Jews. This generalization of Holocaust imagery is part of a wider phenomenon in which such images are applied to any current conflict in order to activate an inbred, unquestioning hatred against those who have been clothed in the despised Nazi imagery and an equally innate sympathy for those depicted as victims.

The newest developments in art inspired by the Holocaust can best be examined through three themes. First, children of survivors, such as Yocheved Weinfeld and Haim Maor, try to understand their parents' experiences by picturing themselves in their place and exploring how they would have reacted. The second theme – ghosts – is poignantly demonstrated by Shimon Attie's projections of old black and white photographs of the Jewish inhabitants of Berlin and Rome on the walls of these cities, so that they seem to be haunting their streets. The third subject is the expression of constant anxiety, a feeling Jonathan Borofsky explicitly connects with the Holocaust. Such new themes suggest that artists have not finished examining the Holocaust and that they will continue to find new means to express its relevance to the modern world.

Bibliography. Z. Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts (1993); M. Baigell, Jewish-American Artists and the Holocaust (1997); M. Bohm-Duchen, Monica (ed.), Art after Auschwitz (1995); S.C. Feinstein (ed.), Absence/Presence: Critical Essays on the Artistic Memory of the Holocaust (2005); idem, Witness and Legacy: Contemporary Art about the Holocaust (1995); S. Hornstein and F. Jacobowitz (eds.), Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust (2003); S. Horn-stein, L. Levitt, and L.J. Silberstein. Impossible Images: Contemporary Art after the Holocaust (2003); D.G. Roskies, Against the Apocalypse (1984); Washington Project for the Arts. Burnt Whole (1994); J. Young, At Memory's Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (2000); idem, Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meanings (1993).

Resources. Traditional Art ; Modern Art ; Art in Israel ; Art in the USA (Art, Jewish Virtual Library, 2008-2013).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...