Shir Hashirim (Mandatory Palestine, ca. 1930)
This decorated scroll of Shir Hashirim (which is read on the Shabbat of Pesah) is a product of the circle of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, dated to circa 1930, though the scribe and artist are unidentified. The artistic movement associated with this school was informed by the Zionist ideals of the society in which it was immersed. Many of the pioneers sought a return to an intimate physical connection between Jews and their Land, and a reimagining of the image of the Jewish body. Influenced by this ideology, the Song of Songs became beloved of the writers and artists of this group for its emphasis on the physical features of the Land of Israel—and of the bodies of the two lovers who narrate the book.
The decorations are based on those found in copies of Megillat Esther from 18th century Italy (very closely resembling this example), albeit with coloring typical of 1930s Palestine, and transferred to this cherished book of the Bezalel School. It was created as an art object for tourists who sought to bring home a piece of the Jewish art of the Holy Land. Fittingly, the tourist would have acquired a copy of the book of the Bible that describes the Land of Israel itself most vividly.
BY THE LIBRARY OF THE JEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY