The iconography of Bezalel art
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The iconography of Bezalel art book
The works of art and crafts that were produced in Bezalel are usually classified according to the material and techniques employed in their making. The analysis of the objects usually emphasises matters of style whereas the iconography is discussed in broad generalisation or linked with stylistic aspects.1 The prevalence of stylistic study of Bezalel art reflects the aspirations of Bezalel founders to create the much desired ‘original Hebrew style’. It also abides by art historical conventions that prefer to treat decorative art and handicrafts in terms of materials, form and quality of execution rather than in terms of themes or ideas. Looking at the subject matter of Bezalel works separately from the specific objects, their function or techniques, will offer further insight into the purpose and meaning of these works, and consequently into the ideas and ideologies behind their making. The main source for the following subject classification is the exhibition catalogue of the most comprehensive survey of Bezalel art to date that was held at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem in 1983. This catalogue describes about 1450 items, over 200 of which are photographed.2 In its brief description of Bezalel iconography the catalogue mentions the following themes: the Hebrew letter; Jewish and Zionist symbols; Zionist figures; the fauna and flora of eretz yisrael; Jewish art and archaeology of eretz yisrael; scenes of eretz yisrael; ethnic types; pioneering life in eretz yisrael; and biblical subjects.3 To some extent these categories might represent the variety of themes in Bezalel art, albeit without according weight, popularity or significance.