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Griffin Gallery Presents “The City of Songs” by Jonathan Kis-Lev

The Griffin Gallery will present “The City of Songs”, Paintings of a Modern Jerusalem by renown artist, Jonathan Kis-Lev.  The Rickie Report hopes you will attend the opening reception on November 14th.  Jonathan’s paintings depict the holy sites of three religions as sharing the same urban space – his interpretation of religious pluralism.  Kis-Lev’s artistry will brighten your day, with messages of memory and hope. More details about the public reception and this exhibit are in the following article.




Griffin Gallery





Paintings of a Modern Jerusalem

By Jonathan Kis-Lev


Opening Reception


November 14, 2013


6:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M.


Exhibition continues through December 12, 2013


608 Banyan Trail    Boca Raton, FL 33431   


Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10:30 A.M. until 5 P.M., Monday by appointment only, Sunday closed.




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.


"The City of Songs" by Jonathan Kis-Lev

“The City of Songs” by Jonathan Kis-Lev




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.



According to David Hakham, an art critic and one of Kis-Lev’s collectors, the artist’s choice of passage was far from coincidental. This passage is considered to be one of the only places in the bible to have the words Jerusalem as well as Pomegranate appearing in close vicinity (in verses four and seven). These two elements, the holy city and the fruit sacred by Jewish traditions, were of Kis-Lev’s most favorite themes during the year and a half spent at his Jerusalem studio. Hakham has argued that the reason Kis-Lev began quoting the chapter from the fourth verse and not from the first, was to ensure the appearance of the seventh verse mentioning the split pomegranate. According to Hakham, “while the words ‘split pomegranate’ also appear in chapter four of Shir HaShirim, that chapter does not mention the word ‘Jerusalem’. Clearly, Kis-Lev insisted on choosing a passage that will include both of his fixations”.



Another interpratation offered by Hakham highlights the very last word of the passage, “the sun”. Hakham writes “The artist obviously stretched the last three lines on the second page, intentionally meaning to end up with the word ‘sun’, another element frequent in his works.” While the sun does not appear in the painting, Hakham suggests that the walls of the old city, brighter and yellower than ever in other paintings of Jerusalem by the artist, “allude to the city of Jerusalem being the sun for the Jewish people, and not only them, but also to the rest of the monotheistic world, as highlighted in the inclusion of the church and the mosque on both sides of the synagogue place at the center”.



Art critic Samuel Thrope also mentioned the inclusion of the three elements as key to understand Kis-Lev’s work; “[…] the three structures can be identified as the domes of the rebuilt Hurva synagogue, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. in all cases the ecumenism remains.” Thrope furthemore indicates that “It is easy to dismiss these paintings as naive. Depicting the church, mosque, and synagogue as sharing the same urban space is not a replacement for, and will not bring about, a just solution to the violence and oppression that plague this city. That magical thinking is counterfeit coin. Nostalgic for a harmonious past that never was or envisioning a saccharine and unrealizable future, the artist can be charged with disengagement from the political reality of Jerusalem now – graft, poverty, demolitions, oppression, hate.” Yet Thrope too points at the artist’s intention: “The three holy monuments which dominate the paintings seem, again, to point to a message of religious pluralism.”


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.



Griffin Gallery specializes in museum quality Ancient Art. Our holdings include over five hundred authentic artifacts that reflect a spectrum of the cultures of Antiquity in addition to Contemporary fine works of art. Among our treasures are pieces from Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Far East, the Near East, the Holy Land, Pre-Columbian cultures, and pre historic Native America.


Griffin Gallery Ancient Art is located at Gallery Center, 608 Banyan Trail  Boca Raton, FL 33431  561.994.0811, fax: 561.994.1855.  For more information visit: or email:


This exhibit is Sponsored by: Beiner,Inkeles & Horvitz, P.A. 2000 Glades Road, Ste. 110, Boca Raton, FL, 33431, (561) 750-1800

For coverage of your events, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact The Rickie Report at:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher

The Rickie Report

P.O.Box 33423

Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33420



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