Friday, December 10, 2010

Illuminated Manuscripts

We had a few days off at the start of this week, so this was a perfect time to get some culture in. The Israel museum is really close to my house and at the suggestion of one of my classmates, I thought this would be a great experience. They have a Braginsky collection of Illuminated Manuscripts.

The largest selection were K'tubot, marriage contracts. I was so excited that I could read many of them, but I would have appreciated translations so I wouldn't have needed to work as hard. I was stuck by the drawings on them. Many had symbols of the months, Adam and Chava (Eve) and more. I was really surprised at the number that had a depiction of the binding of Isaac.

Another section of the display had Migilot Esther, scrolls of the Book of Esther. Some were incredibly beautiful with pictures of the events in the story. Others had really ornate drawings in the margins. They came in amazingly ornate casings. Some of them were made of silver, wood and even ivory. Some of the scrolls were clearly just for possession and were not meant to be used, the writing was really tiny.

Speaking of tiny writing, the third section contained various books, many of them prayer books, psalms or Bibles. There were two examples of micrography. This is the use of minute writing so small that I couldn't even see which language they were written in. One of these texts had 7 psalms that made a picture of King David playing a harp. Amazing!

Other books were some amazing Haggadot (books for the Passover Seder) which depictions of the Exodus from Egypt. There were also incredible prayer books including one by HaAri that had suggestions for ways to heighten your prayer experience, kavaanot. But here's the best part of they day, I joined the museum!

It really just made a lot of sense. For 100 NIS, a little more than 25 USD, I can go as often as I want this year. Instead of paying 36 NIS each time, this made perfect sense. After the entire conversation in Hebrew, with a little help from Micah, I had signed up and also received a free gift because it's Hanukah. I have a great new mug for my nescafe (read: terrible, terrible, terrible morning coffee) that is big enough for me to get a full cup of coffee before I leave for school.

After looking at the manuscripts, we wandered the museum a little bit. There was a really cool photograph that we looked at. Well, really it's a ton of photographs that were staged to look like an updated version of an old picture. It was really cool and I didn't read the information explaining how it was done until later. It shifted my perspective on the piece. I wish I could have bought it off the museum. I really liked this picture.

Then we went towards the Modern Art wing. In the Modern Art section there is a very thin table that is constantly in motion. It just wobbles, all the time. Then there is another room dedicated to the progression of furniture and in another room is a large mobile that has full sized musical instruments hanging from it. I guess I just don't understand modern art. Things like this just don't resonate with me and it might be that I just haven't studied it. The two other people I was with had similar feelings. One of them decided to ask the security guard what he thought. He essentially said that he didn't get it either. The paintings, the pottery and things on the lower floors were art to him, he didn't really get it.

Maybe someone can help me? I really think I haven't learned how to appreciate Modern or Post-Modern Art.

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