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Ancient Jewish Coins
Mixed Media
Judith Weinshall Liberman
Return to the Ancient Jewish Coins Gallery


My interest in including images of ancient Jewish coins among my Judaica works has been of long standing. Back in the mid-1960s, barely three years after I began immersing myself in the study of art, I created a small mixed media work based on the Pomegranate (Holy Jerusalem) Coin. The coin dated back to 66-70 AD and was minted in Jerusalem during the war of the Jews against Rome. My work was small, less than 6" by 6". It was done on a block of wood and, incorporating oil paints, marble dust and gold leaf, the image created was that of a precious gold coin embedded in a rock. It did not concern me at the time that the actual ancient Pomegranate Coin was minted in silver rather than gold. I was studying various mediums and the image of the coin seemed perfect for use with the mediums of gold leaf and marble dust which, under the guidance of my art teacher, George Dergalis, I was trying to master.

It was not until twenty years later - the mid-1980s - that the image of ancient Jewish coins reappeared in my art, and quite extensively. At that time I was studying ceramics under the guidance of Makoto Yabe at the DeCordova Museum School in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where I created many dozens of three-dimensional works as well as ceramic scrolls and plaques. Jewish motifs seemed appropriate for these works, both because of the shapes I created and because of the finish (mostly iron oxide) that I chose to give them. I used images of ancient Jewish coins both on my sculptures and on many of the flatter works. A large collection of these ceramic works is on permanent exhibition at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, Massachusetts. A smaller collection can be found at the Department of Jewish Studies at the Dodd Center at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut.

One of the things that was unique to my ceramic works was that I devised a method of creating my ceramic images by first carving them (in reverse) into blocks of wood and then imprinting the carved blocks into the clay while the clay was still soft. I had created a large body of block prints (graphics) years earlier and was familiar with the use of tools and other aspects of wood carving. Using carved blocks to create images in my ceramic works allowed me to ensure that the images were consistently of the high quality I desired to achieve.

When my husband passed away later in the mid-1980s and I turned away from ceramics and began creating art about the Holocaust, I still had about a dozen blocks carved with the image of ancient Jewish coins or other Jewish symbols which I had never used. I discovered these unused blocks in 2008 and, since I did not have the facility – or inclination - to do ceramics any longer, I thought I would simply print the carved blocks on paper and create a graphic series by means of these carved blocks. With that in mind, I inked the raised parts of the carved blocks with permanent black ink so the image on each block would appear clearly in black-and-white. While inking them, however, I discovered that the blocks, which I had carved over twenty years earlier, were too brittle to be printed even on paper. Evidently they had dried up with the passage of time.

Unwilling to have all the hard work of carving the blocks go to waste, I decided to create mixed media works based on the images carved in the blocks. Some of the images were of ancient coins. Others were of Jewish symbols, ancient and modern. I chose a limited palette of warm and cool metallic acrylic paints – such as copper and silver - to create these works, combining these paints with marble dust to evoke an image of rock, as I had in my first coin image over forty years earlier.