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The Fifth International Seminar on Jewish Art

Fifth International Seminar on Jewish Art
Over 400 people from 24 countries participated in the Fifth International Seminar on Jewish Art. Seated in the front row center are Prof. Avigdor Posèq, Richard Shoyer, Prof. Bezalel Narkiss and Prof. Shmaryahu Talmon

The proceedings of the Seminar were
published in volume 23/24 (1997/98)
of Jewish Art

This year, to mark the celebration of "Jerusalem 3000," the Fifth International Seminar on Jewish Art of the Center for Jewish Art was dedicated to The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art. The Seminar, which took place in Jerusalem from June 16-21, 1996, was a tremendous success from the standpoints of both scholarship and attendance, which surpassed that at all previous Seminars.

Over 400 participants gathered to hear 120 lectures by world renowned experts in the visual culture and history of Jerusalem. The abundance of outstanding material, necessitated the holding of three sessions concurrently at the Van Leer Institute and at the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. New aspects of the visual representation of real and ideal Jerusalem were explored, stressing roots common to the three systems of faith, while displaying their particular national or religious features.

Prof. Bianca Kühnel, the Seminar Chairperson, summarized the differences and similarities between the approaches of the three religions in her closing lecture, Reality and Idealism in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Approaches to Jerusalem in Art, emphasizing that : "The extensive, comparative discussion of Jerusalem in art allows us to see that although many ideas and forms passed from one monotheistic religion to the other, the common use of certain visual motifs never affected the clarity of each one's own statement, never blurred the frontiers between them. This unique phenomenon concerning a symbol whose universality surpasses human experience and imagination is part of the mystery called Jerusalem."

Most of the lectures describing Jerusalem in Jewish Art concentrated on depictions of the Temple and its implements in synagogal and ceremonial art. Dr. Annette Weber, Curator of Arts at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, spoke on Monuments for the Jewish Nation in Exile. She outlined the changing motifs on arks and ark curtains in synagogues in Italy and central Europe after the exile from Spain, and how the more elaborate interiors of post-medieval synagogues became a mode of Jewish self-assertion in exile. This legacy helped mold the Jewish cultural identity in modern times, as discussed by Haya Friedberg in her lecture, Contemporary Ceremonial Art and Secular Jewish Identity.

Professor Jerzy Malinovsky from the University of Lodz, spoke about a group of Polish artists who traveled to Jerusalem at the beginning of the 20th century who, upon their return to Poland, portrayed genre scenes of Jews, Christians and Muslims. This type of portrayal was gradually superseded by representation of the ethos of the pioneer's life.

The sessions dedicated to Christian Art emphasized Heavenly Jerusalem and its wide range of symbolic interpretations. Prof. Herbert L. Kessler from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, referred to the use of Christian imagery to compensate for the loss of the Holy City, in his lecture: The Destruction of Jerusalem and the Necessity of Christian Art. Prof. Henry Maguire from Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. in his lecture entitled: Davidic Virtue: The Crown of Constantine Monomachos and its Images, described Davidic iconography connected with the Byzantine Imperial court.

In the session entitled: Symbols of Jerusalem in Byzantine Art, Alexei Lidov from the Center for Eastern Christian Culture, Moscow, lectured on the Image of Heavenly Jerusalem in Byzantine and Russian Art of the medieval period from the fifth to the sixteenth centuries.

Three engaging sessions on Jerusalem in Islamic Art brought in large audiences. Among the speakers was Tatiana Starodoub from the Research Institute for the Theory and History of Art of the Russian Academy of Art, Moscow. In her lecture entitled, The Holy City (Al-Quds) Idea in Medieval Muslim Painting, she discussed the image of the Holy City as being a metaphor for the Almighty. Most other lectures concentrated on the Islamic traditions of the Temple Mount. Professor Heribert Busse, from the University of Kiel, Germany, and one of the conference moderators, gave a discourse on the Temple of Jerusalem and its Restitution by the Muslims. He described how Jewish and Christian ideas influenced the Muslim understanding of the Temple and its function.

Professor Priscilla P. Soucek from New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, explored the role played by traditions about Zachariah B. Berechiah and Maryam bint 'Imran in the Islamic understanding of the Temple and its heritage, in her lecture, The Temple After Solomon: The Role of Zacharia b. Berechiah and Maryam Bint 'Imram. Miriam Rosen-Ayalon discussed the archeological aspect in her lecture: Jewish Substrata, Christian History and Muslim Symbolism: An Archeological Episode in Jerusalem.

Two controversial lectures on contemporary Israeli and Palestinian art were given, respectively, by Dr. Milly Heyd and Dr. Gannit Ankori, both of the Hebrew University. In Behind the Walls: Jerusalem in Contemporary Palestinian Art, Dr. Ankori described how the image of Jerusalem, the real and ideal, has come to dominate Palestinian Art over the past twenty years. She presented and analyzed several examples of Palestinian art to illustrate her argument. In Anti-Myth in Contemporary Israeli Artists' Portrayal of Jerusalem Dr. Milly Heyd described the clash of myth and reality as Israeli artists grapple with the mystification of Jerusalem.

Sessions were held in which contemporary artists presented their work and spoke about the influence of Jerusalem on their art. Judith Margolis, Art Director for the Jerusalem Post Magazine presented her work in progress, "Twelve Gates to the City: An Artist's Book About Jerusalem," a portrayal, in typography and collaged images, of several aspects of life in Jerusalem. Liz Blazer, a visiting artist from Philadelphia, and a participant in the artist in residence program in Arad this year, presented a series of photographs taken in the Old City meat market. Eitan Erell of Tel Aviv described his use of Jewish ideas and images in his jewelry design.

Dr. Jo Milgrom conducted an educational workshop on the subject of Jerusalem, and the origin and development of the universe. She began with a presentation of texts and slides, followed by a workshop on mandalas, which are schematized representations of the cosmos or, in Jungian psychology, symbols representing the effort to reunify the self. Participants drew, painted, sculpted, collaged, sewed, installed or danced mandalas.

Delegates were also treated to a stimulating afternoon of tours of Jerusalem guided by experts in the field. These included a fascinating visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre led by Professor George Lavas, the architect of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Professor Lavas was able to take his group to places usually inaccessible to the public. Dr. Chana Schütz of Centrum Judaicum in Berlin, and Professor Jürgen Krüger of the University of Regensburg, Germany, led a tour of German architectural sites, noting the eclectic nature of the buildings and contrasts with the local "oriental" architecture.

Dr. Raya Shani guided a tour to the Temple Mount ( including Solomon's stables) where she discussed the importance of the Dome of the Rock for the Ummayad rulers. On another tour, Ruth Jacoby brought visitors to the tunnel excavations beneath Arab houses along the length of the Western Wall, where the magnificence and strength of Herodian building is evident. Dr. Ronnie Reich presented the renewed excavations he is heading at the south western corner of the Temple Mount where a Herodian Street has been uncovered as well as dramatic evidence of the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans.

Ariella Amar led a tour through one of the oldest neighborhood of the new city, which included a small sample of the one hundred synagogues of Nachlaot (see article on Center's Lev Ha-'Ir Project).

An expedition to Tel Aviv led by Nitza Behrouzi brought some visitors to an exhibit of Jerusalem papercuts by artist Yehudit Shadur at the Eretz Yisrael Museum.

At the Opening Ceremony of the Fifth International Seminar on Jewish ArtProf. Rainer Stichel of the University of Münster, Germany (left), Prof. Beat Brenk of the University of Basel, Switzerland (center), and Prof. Herbert L. Kessler of Johns Hopkins University at the Bible Lands Museum for the Opening Ceremony of the Fifth International Seminar on Jewish Art.

Evening events were in keeping with the theme of Jerusalem. The opening ceremony was held at the Bible Lands Museum where there was a tour of the exhibition: Jerusalem - A Capital for All Times. The program also included a musical interlude, a piece by Jerusalem composer, Haim Alexander, and a riveting lecture on The Rise of David, by Professor Yair Zakovitch, Head of the Hebrew University's Institute of Jewish Studies.

On the following evening at the Israel Museum, visitors were greeted by Museum President, Teddy Kollek during a cocktail reception. They were then taken on an engaging tour of the museum's collection highlighting Jerusalem from antiquity to modern times. Another evening was spent at the Jerusalem Cinemateque for a special screening of Dutch filmmaker Willy Lindwer's documentary: Jerusalem Between Heaven and Earth: A three part series on Jerusalem: City of History, City of Religion and City of Peace.

The Closing Ceremony took place at the Ticho House, where an exhibition of landscapes and portraits by well-known artists Anna Ticho and Hermann Struck was being held. The evening began with a festive meal, and concluded with a lecture by Hebrew University Professor Avigdor Posèq on the work of Anna Ticho, a portrait of Jerusalem in Poetry by the Jerusalem Poetry Reading Group, and a performance by the Russian Orthodox Liturgical Music Octet, "Musica Eterna."

The Seminar provided a unique opportunity for students and scholars of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Art to examine, comparatively, a multitude of topics connected with Jerusalem in Art. The discussions led to a better understanding of common forms of expression and continuity of motifs on the one hand, and the detection of new developments and turning points in artistic attitudes towards Jerusalem, on the other. Moreover, the Seminars was an important meeting ground between Eastern European and Western scholars, to the benefit of all.

The Center is currently preparing the next edition of Jewish Art which will include a selection of over 50 lectures from the Seminar. This important volume, which will be a great resource for scholars, researchers and students alike, will be dedicated to Prof. Bezalel Narkiss on the occasion of his 70th birthday in recognition of his tremendous contribution to the field of Jewish Art.

The Fifth International Seminar on Jewish Art was made possible with the generous support of:

Robert Bosch Stiftung, Stuttgart
Jerusalem 3000 Committee
Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York
Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung, Essen
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel
Rich Foundation, Paris

We would also like to thank the following friends and institutions for their assistance:

Stanley and Donna Batkin, New Rochelle, NY
Dan Hotels Corporation, Ltd., Tel Aviv
Embassy of France, Tel Aviv
Daniel Friedenberg, New York
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Isaac and Bonnie Pollak, New York
Hershel Shanks, Washington, D.C.
Sotheby's, Tel Aviv
Ministry of Tourism, Israel
Stef Wertheimer, Iscar Ltd., Tefen, Israel

This Seminar was a project of the Jerusalem 3000 Celebrations.

 

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