Song of Songs

This calligraphic masterpiece, 11-inch high piece of parchment that contains the entire biblical Song of Songs in Hebrew micrography (written in tiny letters).   It is signed by the Lithuanian artist/scribe, Baruch ben Shemaryah, 1794.  It renders the entire Song of Songs as a work of art, in letters that are at once text and illumination.  Shir (song) is the central word around which the text revolves.  The crown, labeled “crown of kingship” perhaps refers to the Song’s opening statement that its author is King Solomon.img0006

Religious authorities in both Judaism and Christianity made the Song’s prominence possible by interpreting it allegorically, as an expression of God’s love.  The document’s chronogram—Hebrew words whose numerical value indicates the date—uses ahavat olam: eternal love.  It may refer to a prayer about God’s love for Israel which begins with these words; or it may mean that the document was created in honor of a marriage.  For, in everyday usage and in its plain meaning, the Song of Songs is about spring, youth, love, and yearning.

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