Art History:  Grade 5 Lesson 2

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Biblical Archaeology & Jewish Ceremonial Art


  1. SHIBUM, CHIEF OF LAND REGISTRY c. 2600-2350 B.C., Mari, Ninni-Zaza Temple.
       The Sumerians of early Mesopotamia believed that their principal function in life was to serve the gods. When they were not actually praying in person, they left stone statuettes of themselves before their altars to pray on their behalf. The huge eyes symbolize awed adoration (windows to the soul), and the hands are clasped in endless worship. The carving is shown wearing the typical scalloped sheepskin skirt of that time. Each Sumerian city had a temple to honour its own patron god. 
       Houses and ingenious boats were woven from reed and goods were transported by the first merchants.


  2. BUILDING SOLOMON'S TEMPLE 958-951 B.C. drawing by Paul Calle, p.189 Great People of the Bible and How They Lived, The Readers Digest Association, Inc.1974. Reproduction photograph
     Under Phoenician Guidance, thousands of Israelites labored seven years on Solomon's temple. The Bible records in 1 Kings 6:7 that “neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron”
    was used, but it is believed that flooring, beams and ivory inlays could have been installed with pegs and the stones prepared elsewhere, The stones were precisely fitted together without mortar, and cedar beams were placed at intervals for strength. One feature of its advanced Phoenician design is a column capital (foreground in picture), now considered the precursor of the Ionic style of the Greeks. In the scene an architect examines some carved
    panels which will be placed in the interior.

    Solomon's temple - the culmination of all his building projects - was intended to be the permanent home of the ark of the covenant. Though not a fragment remains today it stood for 400 years on a hill, overlooking Jerusalem, with walls 10 feet thick and crowned with a
    battlement, it blended fortress strength with Phoenician elegance. Two towering pillars of bronze dominated the temple facade, while the interior walls of cedar were resplendent with carvings of ivory, gold and wood, The ark stood in the Holy of Houses, at the feet of two huge cherubim (now understood to be winged sphinxes with human faces, borrowed from Phoenician art). These were carved from olivewood. covered with pure gold and had wingspans of 15 feet. Priests performed cleansing rituals at an enormous bronze bowl, mounted on 12 bronze oxen in the courtyard. Animals were sacrificed on the spacious altar on the right side of the temple.

    Solomon's temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar's armies in July-August 567 B.C. by fire. It was rebuilt but again razed to the ground by the Romans in 70 AD.

  3. BLACK OBELISK OF SHALMANSER III 858-824 B.C. detail, photograph by Erich Lessing, The British Museum, London, Reproduction photograph
    The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, dated 841 BC and discovered in the palace at Nimrod, shows detailed carvings of Jehu (842-815 B.C.) bowing before the Assyrian king. It's the only contemporary representation of an Israelite king.

    Jehu is robed and wearing the cloth cap of royalty. beyind him a Jewish official is holding part of a huge tribute paid by Jehu in gold and silver.

    The inscription reads "Tribute of Jehu, son of Omri, silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden beaker, golden goblets, pitchers of gold, lead, staves for the bed of the king, javelins, I received from him."

  4. EXILE FROM JUDAH 8th century  B.C. stone relief detail, palace of the Assyrian King - Sennacherib Ninevah, The Louvre, Paris, Reproduction photograph
    Jews are shown being deported from Judah, after the Assyrian capture of the city of Lachish in 701 B.C.


  5. DRAGON OF BEL-MARDUK 604-564 B.C. detail from the Ishtar Gate, Babylon. Reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, glazed wall tile, 45 1/2" x 65 3/4", The Detroit Museum of Arts, Gift of the Founders Soc., Reproduction print
     Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia from 605-562 B.C. was a tireless builder who made Babylon the most splendid city of its time. Of eight gateways in the massive walls, each sacred to a different god, the most imposing was the huge Ishtar gate, built in honour of the Babylonian Goddess of love and battle, and rising 50 feet above a sacred, processional way into Babylon. The walls of flanking towers were clad in glazed blue bricks, which were decorated with yellow and white reliefs of dragons, symbol of the Babylonians' chief god Marduk., and bulls, symbols of the lightning god, Adad. Baked bricks cemented into bitumen formed a solid core for the wall, and the foundations went down as deep as the wall was high. Overlooking the Ishtar gate rose the famous Hanging Gardens (one of the "Wonders of the Ancient World"), underground chambers found this century probably housed the mechanism for raising water to the gardens.
    bulletIshtar Gate - Building specsPictures


  6. AHERSUERUS (XERXES) OF DARIUS THE GREAT (King of Persia) 521-485 B.C.  Persian, carved marble portrait, The Louvre, Paris, Reproduction print
  7. JEWISH ART ON LAMPS IN THE TIME OF MISHNA, c. 200 A.D. Israel museum, Jerusalem, 1970, Poster
    Clay lamps, to light the interior of homes were fueled with olive oil. The larger opening is to fill the lamp with oil, the smaller for a fiber wick. The lamps were both formed by hand and in molds. The motifs here include palm branches, grapes and a basket, and lamps. 


  8. TREE OF LIFE late 6th century, mosaic Caesarea, Israel, Reproduction print
     This mosaic was found during excavations outside the walls of a 6th century, Byzantine church. The design is from the story of the Garden of Eden.


  9. CODE OF MAIMOMONIDES c. 1350, manuscript page, Central Europe, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, NY, Gift of Loius M. Rabinowitz, Reproduction photograph
     Maimonides (1135-1204) was the greatest Jewish thinker of mediaeval times. He lived in Egypt and reinterpreted Biblical and rabbinical texts to include prohibiting only representations of human figures in relief. Figures of plants, animals and trees were permitted in clay, stone or wood.
  10. HANNUKKAH MENORAH early 18th century, Joann Adam Boller (1639-1732), Frankfurt, Germany, Silver with enamel medallions, 17" H x 14 1/2" W, Jewish Museum, NY, Gift of Mrs. Felix M Warburg,  Reproduction photograph
    The depiction of biblical heroes and heroines was a favorite decorative element in European Hanukkah lamps. Judith, a Jewish heroine during the Assyrian invasion was a popular figure, depicted with a sword in one hand and the head of Holofernes in the other. 


  11. ARCHITECTURE IN THE HANNUKKAH LAMP 18th century, Copper and brass, Morroccan, Israel museum, Jerusalem, Poster 1978-9
     The design and decoration of Hannukkah lamps are unrestricted, unhampered by scriptural restriction.


  12. RABBI: THE PINCH OF SNUFF 1912, Marc Chagall, Russian (1887-1985), Kunstmuseum, Basle, Switzerland, Reproduction print
     Chagall here depicts a Rabbi with many of the symbols of his office: Star of David, a portion of a Hanukkah lamp (upper left); scripture on the table; cap; beard and uncut sideburns. The human quality of this portrait is achieved by a clever juxtaposition: the official nature of the respected Rabbi and the recreational use of tobacco in the form of snuff.
    bullet Chagall - see also Grade 1, Lesson 1


  13. INSCRIPTIONS REVEAL Documents from the time of the Bible, Israel museum, Jerusalem, Poster
  14. JERUSALEM Birket-es-sultan (Sultan's Pool) 1854, August Salzmann, Israel Museum, Jerusalem, reproduction print
    Jerusalem Map drawn circa 1875


    1. The Protestant Cemetery. The black line to the northeast of it showing the position of the scarped foundation of the wall of Zion.
    2. Birket es Sultan, or Sultan's Pool.
    3. The traditional Aceldama.
    4. Birket Mamilla.
    5. The School of the late Anglican Bishop. (Now Jerusalem
       University College)

  15. ANCIENT GLASS Israel Museum, Jerusalem


  16. ISAIAH SCROLL c. 100 B.C., Israel Museum, Jerusalem

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