Graven Images: Graphic Motifs of the Jewish Grave Stone

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Abrams, 1993 - Art - 144 pages
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"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth". So decrees the second commandment. Could anything be clearer? And yet, through the centuries, Jews have decorated their tombstones with graven images. This rich tradition of liberally interpreting the biblical admonition has provided centuries' worth of graphic symbols and motifs that illuminate Jewish history and lore. In Graven Images, a surprisingly spirited view of a usually somber subject, author and photographer Arnold Schwartzman has assembled a lavish array of color photographs of Jewish tombstones. Focusing on the treasures he has discovered in thirty-eight European cemeteries, this book reproduces more than two hundred graven images from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Romania. Schwartzman's beautiful close-up photographs and fascinating captions reveal the significance of some of the most common images found on the gravestones. Some reveal the occupation of the deceased (an inkwell and quill for a scribe) or something about character (a candelabrum for a pious woman). Others allude specifically to a person's name (a fish for a member of the Fischel family) or refer to biblical tradition (Noah's ark, Adam and Eve in the Garden). The book begins with a riveting essay by Chaim Potok, the renowned novelist and Jewish thinker, who asks: "How in the light of all these images are we to understand the second commandment?" A unique assemblage of what Schwartzman has called "hallowed milestones that plot the course of the Jewish diaspora", GravenImages will appeal to everyone interested in Jewish history, symbols, and tradition.

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About the author (1993)

Schwartzman is an award-winning graphic designer and filmmaker. He was born in Britain.

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