What looks to be a significant, highly focused conference on a topic we have posted about several times takes place in Jerusalem next month.
“Synagogue Wall Paintings: Research, Preservation, Presentation,” brings together key experts from Europe, North America and Israel to discuss a range of hands-on, theoretical, and analytical issues regarding the murals that decorate the walls of synagogues in many countries. It also celebrates the launch of a new online resource on synagogue murals.
The conference is organized by the Center for Jewish Art at Hebrew University, and the introductory session will be devoted to the CJA’s new Catalogue of Wall Paintings in Central and East European Synagogues — a growing digital portal and database that is still developing.
The Catalogue to date includes description and photographs for some 145 synagogues in 11 European countries plus Israel. The aim is
to include records of all known murals from both extant and non-extant synagogues. In the latter case, surviving photographs and verbal descriptions bear witness to the destroyed works of art. The records of all paintings furnish information about creators, dates, iconographical subjects, and inscriptions.
Synagogue murals constitute a historical and cultural phenomenon that first spread through Central and Eastern Europe in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. This early development reached its high point in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with artwork painted on the walls and ceilings of wooden synagogues. The murals of this period are characterized by original artistic language, an established composition program, and a variety of symbolic and decorative motifs. In the late nineteenth century European art genres exerted a definite influence on the decoration programs of synagogues. Subsequently, the first half of the twentieth century saw a new peak in the popularity of synagogue paintings. Even after the Holocaust some surviving communities continued this tradition and tried to observe the traditional “canon” in the decoration of their synagogues. Notwithstanding the manifest influence of European art, the synagogue murals have no counterpart in the sacred buildings of the surrounding Christian culture.
Most of the other conference presentations will also deal with synagogue murals in central and eastern Europe: among them are general case studies; analysis of specific motifs and symbolism; discussion of the artists who created the paintings; preservation and display issues; and related topics.
We certainly hope that the papers will be published and/or be made available online!