Today, picking a ketubah can prove a daunting task with the abundance of beautiful artwork available. Artists very often look to the past for inspiration. They look at traditional ketubah art from times past but with an eye to the contemporary trends and design—paying homage to the Jewish art traditions while reviving and imbuing them with a fresh spirit and a modern interpretation.
Architectural elements such as two pillars were common in traditional ketubah art -- a metaphor for the two individuals-- the bride and groom and their union which results in the building of a new Jewish home. Today, the tree is a popular motif. Not only does it reference the tree of life but is a poetic visualization for the bride and groom who are together planting roots, that through the years will expand and intertwine. As the tree grows, it will bear blossoms and fruit for the generations to come.
Organic motifs are prevalent in modern ketubah art. Myrtle leaves (indigenous to Jerusalem), were long ago used in making the bride groom’s wreath and now refers to the chupah (bridal canopy). Pomegranates--a symbol of fertility and plenty-- are a prominent element in ketubah art. And of course, grapes and their reference to wine and the life cycle, is so central to the Jewish wedding ceremony and is a prominent image in ketubah art.
Animal motifs are widely depicted in ketubah art. The deer, lion, peacock and doves, all prevalent in traditional ketubah art, continue to be frequently depicted in modern ketubah art. Deer are a symbol for beauty and grace: the lion for Jerusalem and strength: the peacock for abundance and doves for the bride and God’s love for the Jewish people.
The crown and the menorah motifs are very often eminently and centrally placed in ketubah art design of both the past and present and represent God and the light of the Torah and its wisdom.
Danny Azoulay, the well- known artist is a master at blending modern sensibilities and techniques with traditional elements from Jewish art. Meaningful ketubah art is a beautiful way to acknowledge one’s religion and heritage while breathing new life into long-standing Jewish rituals.