Page 29 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 13

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WERNER ---- BOOKS ON JEWISH ART
Hebrew manuscripts of East and West. A fuller treatment of the
Dura-Europos treasures is given by Rachel Wischnitzer in
The
Messianic Theme in the Paintings of the Dura Synagogue
(Uni-
versity of Chicago Press, 1946). The author discovered that the
murals did not depict isolated Biblical scenes but rather expressed
the hope of the Dura-Europos Jews, who considered themselves
descendants of the Lost Tribes, for an imminent Redemption, for
a Messiah who would lead Israel back to the Holy Land. These
frescoes also prove that the Jews, despite the Second Command-
ment, no longer regarded art as a menace to their faith and no
longer barred art from the home and even the synagogue.
The Dura-Europos synagogue frescoes are also mentioned in the
appendix to
Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and Greece
, by the
late E. L. Sukenik. Based on the scholar’s 1930 Schweigh Lectures,
they were published in 1934 for the British Academy by Oxford
University Press. Among the reproductions are those of synagogue
ruins, mosaic floors and Jewish gilt glass. Finally,
Palestine
,
Ancient and Modern
, a handbook and guide to the Palestinian
Collection of the Royal Ontario Museum of Antiquity, compiled
by Winifred Needier and published by the Museum (Toronto,
1949), can be enthusiastically recommended to a student of Jewish
antiquity.
JEWISH CEREMONIAL OBJECTS
In antiquity, the Jews could build temples and palaces, and
fashion all kinds of objects of art. The medieval Jew, on the other
hand, had few outlets for his artistic drives. He could produce for
his family or his congregation beautiful ceremonial objects, or
specify in detail how the object should be made by a Christian
craftsman. The scribes (
Soferim
) who painstakingly copied Bibles,
Haggadot
and other religious books frequently proved to be excel-
lent illustrators who embellished the text with delicate ink or
watercolor drawings. Many of these illuminated manuscripts are
listed and described in the valuable catalogue,
The People and the
Book
(New York Public Library, 1954), compiled by Joshua
Bloch, and there are a few, unfortunately not very good, black-
and-white illustrations.
Unlike the manuscripts, few Jewish ceremonial objects of the
Middle Ages have survived, and most of the
Hanukkah
lamps and
metal ornaments for the
Torah
now treasured by museums and
private collectors are of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Jewish Ceremonial Art
, edited by Stephen S. Kayser, curator of
the Jewish Museum (Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society of