March 16-22, 2006
Arts : ArtpicksGoy Curious
When it came to all manner of religious ceremonial art in the 18th century, you couldn't touch the top name in Christian draftsmanship, Bernard Picart (16731733). If a more fantastical Red Grooms had any interest in bigger human scaleliterally, figurativelyor drafting, you'd get a picture of Picart. The French engraver and paintera Protestantcovered the waterfront of religious (Biblical concerns, fearful landscapes of hell), mythological (Ixion, Orpheus, Atlas) and philosophical (Aristotle) subject matter quite famously through one of the 1700s' most renowned patrons, Quentin de Lorangère. Yet it was on the Spanish Jewish (Sephardi) ceremonial tip that Picart is best remembered today. As some of the earliest remaining engravings on Jewish religious practice in Europe (between 1720-1730), Picart's work seems to have been rooted in Amsterdam and The Hague, and in the Portuguese and German people. Benediction of the Priests in a Portuguese Synagogue at The Hague and Marriage Among the German Jews are among his most famous works. But beyond those scenes of daily Sephardism, Picart's engraved focus on the implements of the Jewish religion has maintained his infamyJew with Phylacteries and Praying-Scarf; Arba' Kanfot, Sabbath Lamp, Mazzot, Lulab, Etrog, Mezuzah, and Shofar; Scroll of the Law, with Mantle, Crowns, etc. Naomi Feuchtwanger-Sarig, professor with the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at Penn, has created a presentation based on her rich knowledge of Picart's art, as well as works found in the Center's library of Sephardic art. Though it's been challenged that Picart ever saw any of the ceremonies he captured, these works prove that controversy can't taint his dedication to passiontechnically or spiritually.
"Sephardic Life Through Christian Eyes: The Art of Bernard Picart," Wed., March 22, 7 p.m., free, Congregation Mikveh Israel, 44 N. Fourth St., 215-238-1290.