The Theme of God’s Mercy and Retribution in Eastern European Synagogue Wall Paintings Cover Image

Тема божественной милости и кары в росписях синагог Восточной Европы
The Theme of God’s Mercy and Retribution in Eastern European Synagogue Wall Paintings

Author(s): Eugeny Kotlyar
Subject(s): Visual Arts
Published by: Institutul Patrimoniului Cultural al Academiei de Științe a Moldovei
Keywords: synagogue wall paintings; Eastern Europe; the Divine principle; duality; iconography; symbolism; metaphor; allegory

Summary/Abstract: Special significance is associated with visualizing the duality of God in synagogue wall paintings in Eastern Europe. Taking a glance at synagogue decoration as a system of binary oppositions lets us come up with an entire series of compositions depicting the Divine principle which dictates cosmological cyclicity, acts as judge over God’s Chosen People, and rules this People’s history and religious piety. Among these works, compositions thematizing Jewish historical time (mourning the exile from the Promised Land and expressing the hope for a Messianic return to the Holy Land of the Forefathers); the labor of delving into the secrets of Torah study and the joy of achieving this; the balance of Divine and demonic forces in creation; and Divine bounty and blessing for the righteous and retribution for evildoers. The metaphorical language of the paintings, based on the prohibition against representing the human body, combined Jewish didactics and symbolism with medieval emblematic imagery. Most of the compositions were interpreted via images familiar from bestiaries or else via the motif of the Tree of Life, which would be shown as an instrument of God’s will. Based on passages in the Torah, Rabbinic sources, and medieval culture, these images would at different times form a part of the synagogue painting repertoire, reflecting the God-fearing, mystical spirit of Eastern European Jewry.

  • Issue Year: XXVI/2017
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 61-68
  • Page Count: 9
  • Language: Russian