Early 20th Century Armenian Pottery Plate from Jerusalem
Extremely rare Armenian pottery plate depicting the mosaic floor at the ancient synagogue of Beit Alpha in Israel, circa 1920. Jerusalem's ancient Armenian Community experienced a major increase in numbers as survivors of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the government of the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1915 found refuge in Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter. The industry is believed to have been started by refugees from Kütahya, a city in western Anatolia noted for its Iznik pottery. The tiles decorate many of the city's most notable buildings, including the Rockefeller Museum, American Colony Hotel, and the House of the President of Israel. David Ohannessian (1884–1953), who had established a pottery in Kütahya in 1907, is credited with establishing the Armenian ceramic Craft industry in Jerusalem. In 1911 Ohannessian was commissioned with installing Kütahya tile in the Yorkshire home of Mark Sykes. In 1919 Ohannessian and his family fled the Armenian Genocide, finding temporary refuge in Aleppo; they moved to Jerusalem when Sykes suggested that they might be able to replicate the broken and missing tiles on the Dome of the Rock, a building then in a decayed and neglected condition. Although the commission for the Dome of the Rock did not come through, the Ohannession pottery in Jerusalem succeeded, as did the Karakashian the painters and Balian the potters that Ohannessian brought with him from Kuttahya to help him with the project in 1919. after about 60 years new Armenian artists started to have their own studio’s In 2019 the Israel Museum mounted a special exhibition of Jerusalem pottery in its Rockefeller Museum branch location.
The ancient synagogue of Beit Alpha is located in the Beit She'an Valley, in the north-east Israel. The nearby ruins of Khirbet Beit Ilfa preserve the ancient name.
The mosaic floor of the synagogue was discovered in 1929, when members of Kibbutz Beit Alpha dug irrigation channels for their fields. Excavations were carried out the same year, exposing mosaics preserved intact for almost 1,500 years. Later excavations, in the early 1960s, exposed remains of some houses, indicating that the synagogue had stood in a Jewish village of the Byzantine period (5th-6th centuries). The entire prayer hall is paved in mosaic. The floor of the western aisle is decorated with squares in geometric patterns; the eastern aisle is entirely paved in undecorated white mosaic. The colorful mosaic floor of the nave is divided into three distinct panels, all enclosed by a decorated band with a variety of motifs: geometric patterns, fruit, birds and animals. Appears in the central panel. These astrological signs, though condemned by the prophets, were widely used as decorative elements in both churches and synagogues of the Byzantine period. The twelve signs are arranged in a circle and accompanied by their Hebrew names. In the center of the zodiac, the sun god Helios is represented seated in a chariot drawn by four horses. The Four Seasons appear in the corners of the panel in the form of busts of winged women wearing jewels; they are inscribed with the Hebrew months initiating each season: Nisan (spring), Tamuz (summer), Tishri (autumn) and Tevet (winter).
The splendid mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue of Beit Alpha is one of the finest uncovered in Israel. It is unique in both motifs and workmanship. The synagogue itself was small and simply built, but its mosaics represent a Folk Art that is striking, very colorful and rich in motifs. The synagogue was in use during the Byzantine and the Early Islamic periods (7th-8th centuries).