The Daily Heller: Zodiac Signs Revived as Mosaics

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There is symbolic beauty in the astrological signs of the Zodiac, and an aesthetic auspiciousness in the Hebrew alphabet. Put the two together, as Mark Podwal has done as mosaic floor art for the Museum at Eldridge Street, and the combustion of sign, symbol and letter is palpable.

Mosaic Zodiac floors have been found in sixth- and seventh-century Israeli synagogues, and painted zodiac signs have appeared on Eastern European wooden synagogue walls and ceilings. “My designs are based on Jewish interpretations of the zodiac,” says Podwal, a practicing medical doctor, scholar, illustrator and artist. “For example, since Greece was called a scorpion in the Talmud, a scorpion is depicted with a Greek helmet. A Tammuz crab holds pieces of the Ten Commandments shattered on the 17th day of that month. Tishri’s scales weigh a shofar based on a Midrash in which God tells Abraham if his people blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, he will forgive their sins.”

The Museum is housed in the Eldridge Street Synagogue, a National Historic Landmark that has been meticulously restored. Opened in 1887, the synagogue is the first great house of worship built in the United States by Eastern European Jewish immigrants. Today it is the only remaining marker of the great wave of Jewish migration to the Lower East Side.

The recently completed new floor brings symbols of the astrological zodiac to life through a mosaic tile design fabricated and installed by artisans from Progetto Arte Poli, a storied studio workshop based in Verona, Italy. Each sign is paired with the first Hebrew letter of the month it is associated with per the Hebrew calendar.

Mark Podwal Mosaic Tile Floor

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