In this scene, a veiled woman with a pitcher balanced on her head walks along a climbing road with simple buildings on either side. The location is Safed, one of Israel’s the four ‘holy cities’ of Judaisim, and the centre of the mystical Kabbalah movement. Situated among the pine forests of the Upper Galilee overlooking the Sea of Galilee Safed is the highest city of the Holy Land. Rich in religious associations important to its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants, in the early twentieth century the city was dotted with synagogues and mosques. It was also home to a thriving artist colony area around the minaret of the old mosque around the top of the hill.
Moshe Castel was the son of a Sephardic rabbi and was raised in Jerusalem highly conscious of his family’s ancestry as Castilian Jews expelled from Spain in the fifteenth century. Castel went to Paris in 1927 to study at the Académie Julian and the École du Louvre, but he soon abandoned conventional modes of representation and became increasingly preoccupied with the subject of Sephardic Jews in the Holy Land. Castel depicted Safed from memory on numerous occasions, possibly with the help of postcards. These vivid scenes, full of yearning, are painted with an idiosyncratically bright palette and have a dreamlike, subjective quality, akin to that of Marc Chagall, whom he almost certainly knew in Paris. After his return to Israel in 1940, Castel settled in Safed and worked there for the rest of his life. He later moved to more abstract modes of representation, working actual crushed stone from Galilee into his images.
- Village on a Mountain: Figures on a road in Safed
- Production date
- oil on canvas
- 460 x 260 mm
- Credit line
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Lucy Carrington Wertheim, 1950
- Accession no
- Copying restrictions apply
- International Art
- Display status
- Not on display
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