After 10 years of research, 12 workshops in Poland, hundreds of working hands, and what seemed like millions of hours of mixing woad (and other colors..), WE FINISHED THE GWOZDZIEC CEILING PAINTING EXACTLY ON SCHEDULE!!
We went far and fast!
What we refer to as the lantern is the crowning cupola of the Gwozdzeic synagogue ceiling where the baroque interior curvature of the ceiling resolves at its highest point. Added in the early 1700’s, to a barrel vaulted ceiling, it was part of a renovation that inspired a stylistic trend that informed wooden synagogue architecture across the entirety of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (Hubka pg. 57). Now in our final workshop in Wroclaw it remains as the last unfinished element in our ceiling.
Above: Images and studies of the lanterns structure and interior painting.
Those familiar with Ottoman and Middle Eastern art and imagery might find the designs in the lantern surprising. The main design feature, which we refer to as the arabesque, has Ottoman roots. Below you can see a similar design in the repeating sections of an Ottoman tent as well as a similar design feature on wall tiles in the Topkapi palace in Istanbul. Polish Jews were not isolated. Communities such as Gwozdziec maintained cultural connections with Sephardic Jewish communities and were familiar with popular Ottoman motifs. The specific tent pictured below would have also been well known to Poles because of its existence as a symbol of Polish unity and nationalism after Poles captured it in Vienna from invading Turkish forces in 1683 (Hubka pg.37).
Above: Ottoman tent captured in Vienna.
Above: Breier’s color study of the lantern next to tiles from the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul
Hubka, Thomas C. Resplendent Synagogue. Brandeis University Press. Lebanon NH. 2003
Sense of Order. A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art (1979) is a book by E.H. Gombrich, published after he presented his investigations at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as part of a programme called Wrightsman Lectures. Gombrich was an Austrian art historian, probably one of the most significant figures of this discipline in 20th Century Europe. This book is a very broad and complex analysis of human’s natural tendency to search for regularity within disordered surroundings and, as a consequence, eagerness to create patterns, which later become ornaments. Gombrich performs a profound analysis focusing on aesthetic preferences present in various cultures, general aspects of the subconscious, physical perception and also the influence of constant interaction of nature and civilization on the forms of art.
Laura with Maria Piechotka at the Gwozdziec Reconstruction opening in Warsaw.