Griffin Gallery Antiquities

The City of Songs, by Jonathan Kis-Lev

The City of Songs, by Jonathan Kis-Lev


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Directory: Fine Art: Paintings: Oil: Contemporary: Item # 1014694

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Jonathan Kis-Lev, The City of Songs, 2009 - 10, Oil on canvas, 39.4” x 78.8". Kis-Lev was born in 1985 to Russian Jewish immigrant parents and spent his childhood years in a small village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Possibly Kis-Lev's most inherently Jewish painting, The City of Songs portrays the artist's close connection to his Jewish heritage, as symbolized in many of the elements of the painting, most blatantly the open bible, the pomegranate, the Jerusalem view and the open window. Biblical passage: Close inspection at the written words, inscribed on both pages of the open book set on the windowsill, show Hebrew letters written with Kis-Lev's iconic gold trim. The passage is taken from the Song of Songs, in Hebrew Shir Hashirim, chapter six. Altogether almost six verses are written in the small area, beginning at verse four, ending at the middle of verse number ten. When asked about the specific passage, the artist said that it had specific meanings for him, and that it is one of his favorite passages in the Bible. And yet, the artist had refrained from explaining why, adhering to his open for interpretation attitude. Song of Songs, Chapter 6, Verses 4-10: 4. You are fair, my beloved, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, awesome as the bannered legions. 5. Turn away your eyes from me, for they have made me haughty; your hair is like a flock of goats that streamed down from Gilead. 6. Your teeth are like a flock of ewes that came up from the washing, all of which are perfect and there is no bereavement among them. 7. Your temple is like a split pomegranate from beneath your kerchief. 8. There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and innumerable maidens. 9. My dove, my perfect one, is but one; she is one to her mother, she is the pure one of she who bore her; daughters saw her and praised her, queens and concubines, and they lauded her; 10. Who is this who looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, clear as the sun [...] The remainder of the tenth verse, the words "awesome as the bannered legions" were omitted in the painting. The Biblical passage describes the love of the protagonist, most likely a man, to a woman. In spite of the lack of explicitly religious content, Song of Songs can also be interpreted as a parable of the relationship of God and Israel. The words "split pomegranate" mentioned in the seventh verse were most likely interpreted by the artist literally, when he painted the most detailed pomegranate he had painted to-date. It is also assumed that the praising to the protagonist woman was interpreted by the artist as praising for the city of Jerusalem, in which he lived at the time when he painted the painting, in 2009. Kis-lev is one of Israel’s most prominent peace activists winning recognition from President Shimon Peres through Peres’ Young Leaders Forum. Receive Kis-lev’s recent book FREE with every purchase, My Quest for Peace: One Israeli’s Journey from Hatred to Peacemaking.