Jewish Art: From Venice with Soul
This past summer I had the pleasure of meeting David Ariel De Guglielmi in his charming gallery in the Jewish ghetto in Venice, Italy. Batsheva and I were on vacation visiting the beautiful city of Venice, the place I studied to be a Rabbi 10 years ago, and have always wanted to return and to share with my wife.
Walking along the ghetto streets pointing out all the new spaces that have popped up in the last 10 years (contrasted with the places that have been there for centuries) we came upon David’s work spilling out of the gallery on to the cobble stone streets of the ghetto. I was drawn in by the energy, variance and colors on display. David’s work is filled with a love of God and his people, full of life, vibrantce and meaning. David’s work is an expression of his passion for his Judaism and his desire to share it with everyone who comes his way.
But that was not always the case; David grew up in Milan, Italy with a very limited knowledge and concern of his Jewish identity. David, who was creating art from an early age went to the art school Liceo Artistico Hajec in Milan following high school. While at school David bumped heads with the faculty and decided to leave school and go at it on his own, exploring figurative application of old techniques and informal expression, becoming fascinated with the first uses of oil painting. David’s art career took off with shows in Milan, Brescia, Genoa, and New York with work displayed at the Venice Biennale.
Following a serious car accident David put painting to the side and began exploring his spirituality, dabbling in a few different disciplines until he came upon his own faith, his Jewish heritage.
David’s family came along for the journey, making it a group effort, where they began a life of Torah and mitzvot (Jewish teachings observances) as they continued to learn. David did not see the place for art in his new lifestyle and found a job working as a ‘mashgiach’ a kosher supervisor in a factory in Italy. David found contentment in his new spiritual path seeing to grow in other areas outside of his art. A senior kosher supervisor approached David one day and said “This Kosher supervision work is not for you. You are an artist; you have a talent, a gift. You have to use your talents to share your new found conviction and faith in God with others”
To communicate his deep love for Torah,
To dialogue with any and all tourists who pass his gallery – no matter their beliefs
To host intimate musical gatherings in the square in front of the gallery.
To communicate the essence of God and His love for humanity, and how one can connect with God.
Today David continues to paint daily in his gallery, finding harmony with his soul and it’s expression. David has returned to figurative work with depictions of daily life in the ghetto, from the young Chabad students running with their Tefillin, sharing with a new tourist, or the doors of the ancient synagogue.
I am blessed to have one of David’s pieces on my wall -traded for one of my own works -a memory of the wonderful Shabbat spent with David in Chabad’s Gam Gam restaurant, a place where all are welcome regardless of their