The Hidden and the Revealed – The Queen Esther Mosaics of Lilian Broca

Author:  Lilian Broca, Sheila Campbell, Judy Chicago, Yosef Wosk
2011. Gefen Publishing. Hardcover. 190 pages. ISBN 13: 978-965-225606.  $35.

Book reviewers sometimes like to hang on to their verdict, forcing the reader to wade through the reviewer’s arcane knowledge and pompous opinions until, in the very last sentence, the opinion on the particular book is delivered. I’ll spare my readers – this book is a stunner! It encompasses all the elements of a wonderful art book: illuminating but accessible text for an intelligent layman, out-of-the-ordinary artistic content, and quality printing. The preface is by Judy Chicago, the internationally acclaimed artist (famous for her groundbreaking installation, The Dinner Party) and author. Ms Chicago notes that Broca “has chosen the ancient technique of mosaics to create a modern-day visual midrash.” This book has been seven years in the making and includes the full Scroll of Esther in Hebrew, accompanied by an English translation. The artist devotes a section of the book to explaining the technique of mosaics and presenting the reader with many of her preliminary sketches.

The history of mosaics goes back some 4,000 years or more. The expansion of the Roman Empire took mosaics further afield. With the rise of the Byzantine Empire from the 5th century onwards, centered on Byzantium (now Istanbul, Turkey), the art form took on new characteristics. Roman mosaics were mostly used on floors, but the Byzantines specialized in covering walls and ceilings. Light was refracted by the glass and was caught in different ways. The high level of reproducing Broca’s mosaics is a compliment to the Israeli publisher.           

It was Yeats, in his poem Sailing to Byzantium, who spoke of “the gold mosaic of a wall,” the physical reality of the luminous glass that becomes ethereal. Lilian Broca has infused the heroic story of Esther with artistic beauty and, through the medium of mosaics, with spirituality. Definitely recommended as a gift for oneself, others, or both.

 

 

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