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Picture indicating the East (mizrah)

Levi David van Gelder (draughtsman and lithographer; Amsterdam, 1816 – New York, 1878)

Amsterdam, 1845

Lithograph, 72.9 x 60 cm

Gift of Georges Aboucaya, in memory of Colette Aboucaya-Spira


Tableau pour marquer l’Est (mizrah), Levi David van Gelder (dessinateur et lithographe ; Amsterdam, 1816 – New York, 1878), Amsterdam, 1845

Lithographie, 72,9 x 60 cm, don de Georges Aboucaya, en mémoire de Colette Aboucaya-Spira

As indicated by the inscription in the middle at the top, this table of prayers is a mizrah, indicating the East, the direction of Jerusalem faced during prayer. It is signed with the initials of the Dutch artist Levi David van Gelder, who produced several similar works. Although dominated by script and the overall composition stems from the Jewish tradition of micrography (the use of Hebrew characters to form motifs and geometric designs), its originality lies in the use of the Dutch language – very few words are in Hebrew – and the presence of numerous masonic themes. Its esoteric appearance is accentuated by the use of very graphic characters inspired by antique alphabets. The scenes depicted (Moses and Aaron, the Tablets of the Law, the sanctuary in the desert, the utensils used in the Temple, the sacrifice of Isaac, the life of the prophet Elijah, the serpent Nahash, David and Goliath, etc.) are, as frequently in Jewish imagery, derived from Christian models, notably the Iconae Biblicae engraved by Matthäus Merian, known as Matthew the Elder (1593-1650), for Luther’s Bible. After he emigrated to America in the 1860s, Levi David van Gelder continued to work in the same vein with texts in English.

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