The Bezalel Style

 Bezalel , panoramic view c. 1913
from Bezalel catalogue

From the very beginnings of the Bezalel enterprise, there was a conscious effort to create a new and unique "Hebrew" style of art. Bezalel students and artisans sought inspiration in the native flora and fauna, notably the palm tree and the camel. They referenced archeological treasures, replicating Judean coins in filigree pieces and utilizing ancient mosaic floor designs in the carpet workshop. Traditional Jewish symbols such as the six-pointed Star of David and the seven-branched menorah were especially popular, as were architectural icons of the Holy Land. Biblical heroes, "exotic" Jewish ethnic types, modern halutzim (pioneers), and Zionist luminaries were also common subjects. Perhaps the most innovative "Hebrew" artistic creation of the Bezalel School was the decorative use of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Influenced both by Art Nouveau European typography and Islamic calligraphy, Hebrew letters served as a distinct decorative motif found on nearly every object created at Bezalel.

Bible with Bezalel Binding

This elaborate silver binding is the work of the two most renowned artists of the Bezalel School, Ze'ev Raban and Meir Gur-Arie. In addition to teaching at Bezalel, the two founded the Industrial Art Studio in 1923, which continued to operate after the closing of the school in 1929.

Three ivory medallions are set into the binding. On the front cover is an ivory plaque of the Tablets of the Law, guarded by the cherubim, here depicted as winged lions. On the back cover, four winged creatures, representing Ezekiel's vision of the Chariot of God, encircle an ivory roundel that portrays Jews praying at the Western Wall, the last standing remnant of the Temple. On the spine, a vertical plaque bears the Hebrew word TaNaKH, the acronym for TorahNevi'im, and Ketuvim (Pentateuch, Prophets, and Writings), the three sections of the Hebrew Bible.