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Hugo Ballin's Los Angeles

Caroline Luce, Author

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Wilshire Boulevard Temple - King David and the Temple of Solomon

  • In Magnin's Words
  • Cinematic Influences
  • Source/Citations

Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin described Ballin's murals in a book published in 1974:
"To the right of Saul is King David dreaming of the Temple of the future, which he was not permitted to build, but which was erected by his son Solomon. The walls surrounding his feet symbolize royalty, protection and position. Behind him is a medallion containing his battle with the giant Goliath. Thus we see him in the fierceness and virility of youth and in the mellowness and dignity of age.

On the right of David is a suggestion of the Temple of Solomon with the ten golden candlesticks that were contained therein, in accordance with the forty-eighth and forty-ninth verses of the seventh chapter of the first book of Kings, which reads: 'And Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of the Lord; the golden altar, and the table whereupon the showbread was, or gold; and the candlesticks, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the Sanctuary, of pure gold.' Above the candlesticks is the cloud which filled the House of the Lord on the day of the dedication in accordance with the Biblical account found in the eighth chapter of the same book. And one also sees two shafts of light emanating out of the cloud, both on the right and on the left, typifying the Shechina or the presence of God descending upon the Shrine.

The frieze up to this point is, in abbreviated form, the story of the Hebrews from Abraham to the building of the first Temple. This faith was carried down and developed further through the great leaders from generation to generation until the great Temple was built as a repository and a symbol of all that had been inherited from the past."

Ballin again fragments the plane to create a richer, deeper story as he did in his sets during his years in the film industry in this portion of the mural. Indeed, the scene of the Temple of Solomon almost looks like a set and the small figure in the doorway enhancing the viewer's feeling that they are watching a stage performance or a film. Ballin and other set designers in the silent film era worked to remedy the flattening effect caused by early camera technology by adding depth and texture to the scenes, adding otherwise unnecessary objects and furnishings to their sets and exaggerated decorative features like door moldings and columns. Here Ballin has similarly included a variety of ornate decorative features and embellishments to this portion of the mural, thereby creating contrasts of dark and light and receding and advancing surfaces that add dimension and depth.

In the figure of King David, Ballin uses costuming and positioning to differentiate this figure from the others in previous portions of the frieze. His ensemble is notably more regal than those in other panels and his posture more proud than the other figures. In combination with the distinctive set-like background, this portion of the mural offers a different aesthetic motif from the ones before it, likely intended to signal the progression of time and advance the story for viewers.

Caption from Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin's book, The Warner Murals in the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Los Angeles, California, published by the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 1974.

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