Title: Israel and the Law (Study for Boston Public Library Mural)
Date: circa 1908
Artist: John Singer Sargent
Dimensions: 37 3/4 x 59 1/4 in. (95.9 x 150.5 cm)
Medium: Oil with graphite on canvas
Credit Line: Anonymous gift in memory of Jane Cole Worsley
Object Number: 2010.10
Israel and the Law (Study for Boston Public Library Mural)
[FOR FULL TRANSCRIPTION / TRANSLATION CLICK ON SMALL BAR BENEATH OBJECT IMAGE THAT SAYS "3 MEDIA ON FILE," THEN CLICK ON THE DOCUMENT JPEG, OR THE ROUND DISC IMAGE TO ACCESS WORD DOCUMENT]
The inscription on the top arch translates:
Blessed are you, Lord our God, who has chosen us among the nations and has given us his Law. Blessed are you, Lord our God, giver of Torah. Blessed is the Lord, who is to be blessed forever and ever.
(a) The text consists of blessings recited before the public reading of the Torah in the regular synagogue service. However, in this study Sargent has one of the blessings out of place; the line "Blessed is the Lord, who is to be blessed forever and ever" is recited before "Blessed are you, Lord our God, who has chosen us..." In the final piece at the Boston Library the blessings appear in the correct order.
The inscription on the scroll in the middle of the painting translates:
"This is the Teaching...before the Israelites" [Deut 4:44]
(a) Some of the letters on the inscription do not appear to have been fully formed and are thus illegible. I have put brackets around conjectured or illegible letters.
(b) The line is an abbreviation of the scriptural verse reading "This is the Teaching that Moses set before the Israelites." Thus the words "that Moses set" are omitted here, and there is not sufficient room for them under the hand of the figure covering the scroll. Rather, the hand appears to be covering the letter yod of the word ???, "children of" (the phrase "children of Israel" translated by the JPS as simply "Israelites").
[Translation: March 2011 by Benjamin D. Gordon, Ph.D. Candidate, Duke University]
Department: American to 1910