Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Help wanted: mystery image

by J J Cohen

Among Uncle Paul's belongings was this old photograph, lacking inscription or attribution. I believe the image is a synagogue as viewed from across the street. I know this is a terrible scan, but in the original a star of David can be glimpsed in the "rosetta" window. I'm thinking this is the kind of posh, orientalist synagogue that well to do Jewish communities sometimes erected around the turn of the century. I will likewise guess that this is Vienna, where Paul was born and spent his early life. Anyone recognize the street, place, or building?


Anonymous said...

You might find the image in here: Kalmar, Ivan Davidson. "Moorish Style: Orientalism, the Jews, and Synagogue Architecture." Jewish Social Studies: History Culture and Society 7 (2001).
There’s another “Moorish” synagogue in NYC – see

Jeffrey Cohen said...

These Moorish/Oriental(ist) synagogues are a frequent feature of late 19th and early 20th C cityscapes -- at least when the city had a fairly affluent Jewish population. Thanks so much for the link, Suzanne. I now see that it is possible (though probably not likely) that the photograph was taken in Italy -- Venice? Rome? Those are two cities I've never visited, but Paul went to both on his way from Austria to the US. I'm still inclined to believe the picture was taken in Vienna, since that is where he lived longest and is most likely to have had a friend who could afford a camera.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Since there is a sort of Rose Window and the towers are kind of more onion-y, I'd go for more southern Germany/Austria