Back to the Middle Ages. Sargent's Synagoga aims to convey "ruined splendor".
On Sargent's unflattering personification of the Jewish faith, Jenna Weissman Joselit writes: A decidedly old-fashioned, retrogressive and sour note. In Sargent’s rendering, the "Synagogue," its musculature oddly masculine [...], is shown falling to the ground. Her crown is askew, her scepter broken, her eyes blindfolded and her nose rather sharply pointed. His "Church," in vivid contrast, is an exercise in loveliness. Her eyes unfettered, her features — supposedly modeled after Sargent’s beloved niece, Rose-Marie Ormond — delicate and appealing, she gazes boldly at the viewer, welcoming him into her embrace. Uncritically echoing age-old representations of Judaism as recumbent and defeated in contrast to the resplendent and triumphant figure of the Church, Sargent’s rendition opened up a Pandora’s box of criticism, transforming public reception in the process: Unfailingly uniform praise now gave way to what some contemporaries at the time called an "agitation" and others a "storm centre." [...] The library’s board of trustees was quick to dismiss mounting disapproval as a "tempest in a teapot," hoping that the imbroglio would go away (Restoring the American 'Sistine Chapel', Forward, 4.8.2010).
John Singer Sargent, Synagoga, from his Triumph of Religion cycle, 1895-1919
Boston Public Library, USA
Ecclesia et Synagoga: some visual reminders
Ecclesia et Synagoga from Liebfrauenkirche, Trier, Germany, 1250
Synagoga, c. 1230. Strasbourg cathedral, France
Ecclesia and Synagoga, replicas after Strasbourg cathedral pair. Nahum Goldmann Museum, Beth Hatfutsot
A studied contrast. Differentiation in art or The art of discrimination?
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Ovide Moralisé, 1316-28, Ms. Arsenal 5069, fol. 111v. Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Paris
Fernando Gallego, Synagoga, detail from Salvator Mundi, 1485. Museo del Prado, Madrid
Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo, Allegory: The Living Cross with Ecclesia and Synagoga, c.1530. The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Baroque Ecclesia et Synagoga statues in Burgos cathedral, Spain