Microcalligraphy in Safed

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Tzfat Microcalligraphy
Tzfat Microcalligraphy
מיקרוקליגריפהיה בצפת
Other Names:
Small Hebrew letter art
The art of creating pictures using text in minute calligraphy and artists creating such art in the city of Tzfat.

Microcalligraphy has been a specialty of Tzfat artists since Shalom of Tzfat lived and worked in the city. Three Tzfat artists, Moshe Yair, Leon Azoulay and Moshe Dadon carry on the tradition in their own galleries in Tzfat’s Old Jewish Quarter.


[edit] Microcalligraphy

Micro calligraphy is an ancient art in which the artist writes Biblical texts in miniature dimmunitive lettering. Artists create pictures by hand-writing the text which shape and form drawings and paintings into a story. The paintings illustrate the text. Artists use books of the Bible and other holy texts to create vision of the story. Microcalligraphy artists can write an entire Book of the Bible on a sheet of paper, parchment or canvas.

[edit] Shalom of Tzfat

Shalom of Tzfat lived in Tzfat for his entire life. He was born in 1887 and worked as a watchmaker, silversmith, scribe and stonemason. In his later years he began to develop his artistic talents and started painting. He produced works of art in which he wrote, in microcalligraphy, books of the Bible. He then painted pictures which illustrated the text, using the microcalligraphy-text as the base. Shalom of Safed worked in Tzfat until his death in 1980. His works were famous and put Tzfat on the map as the center of microcalligraphy in Israel and the world.

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[edit] Contemporary Tzfat Microcalligraphy Artists

Today there are new artists who continue the tradition of Shalom of Tzfat. These artists each have their own gallery on the Main Gallery Street of the Old City where they work and exhibit their art.

[edit] Moshe Dadon

Moshe Dadon’s Eva Gallery exhibits his hand-lettered microcalligraphy artwork. Dadon grew up in Morocco where he learned to create tiny texts in order to write Bible books. Young boys were taught this skill so that Islamic mobs would not discover these holy books during their periodic rampages through the Jewish Quarter. Dadon moved to Israel in 1962 and worked as a police inspector. He continued to engage in his hobby of creating artwork based on microcalligraphy. Dadon opened his gallery on Yosef Caro Street after he retired from the police force. He concentrates his works on depicting Biblical characters and major Biblical events. Each piece contains an entire book of the Bible written within the painted watercolor picture. Some of Dadon’s best-known works include the Book of Genesis inserted into a globe, the Book of Leviticus illustrated by a model of The Temple in Jerusalem and the Book of Psalms written inside a scene of Old Country Klezmer musicians. Dadon’s Gallery is located on Beit Yosef Street in the Old Jewish Quarter. Original paintings and lithographs are available.

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[edit] Moshe Yair

Moshe Yair comes from a family with deep roots in Tzfat. He is a seventh-generation Tzfat resident whose ancestors who arrived from Spain. Yair received his inspiration for creating works of microcalligraphy from his grandmother who used to write “Tehillim” -- Psalms -- in tiny script for her family and friends to carry around with them. Yair is a self-taught artist and does not reproduce his original microcalligraphy or three-dimensional oil paintings as lithograph prints, but prefers to sell only the original works. His microcalligraphy works include the Book of Exodus illustrated by a picture of Moses splitting the Red Sea, the Book of Genesis as seen in the Story of Creation and the Book of Numbers interwoven into a picture of the narrative of The Spies that Moses sent into the Land of Israel. The Yair Gallery is located on Beit Yosef Street in the Old Jewish Quarter.

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[edit] Leon Azoulay

Leon Azoulay immigrated to Israel from Morocco with his family in 1955 and settled with his family in Tzfat. He studied art at college level and sought to find a medium by which he could combine his passions, art, Tzfat and Judaism. Azoulay has a permanent exhibition on the Beit Yosef Street in the Old Jewish Quarter where he exhibits oil paintings of scenes of Tzfat, northern Israel and his boyhood home in Morocco. His microcalligraphy works are among his most popular creations and fuse the text of Jewish prayers, ceremonies, Books of the Bible and religious chants with illustrative paintings. Some of Azoulay’s best-known microcalligraphy works include the Books of Ruth, Lamantations, Song of Songs, Esther and Psalms along with illustrations of the weekly Torah Portions. Azoulay’s gallery offers original paintings alongside lithograph prints.

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