Opaque glass mosaic, designed by William Blake Richmond, executed by Messrs Powell of Whitefriars, completed by 1896
Among the fictitious portraits shown in the clerestory mosaics are the two masters who built the First Temple, Aholiab and Bezaleel. They are a celebration of art and craftsmanship with each depiction taking close inspiration from the Bible. The backgrounds in particular add a certain Victorian exoticism to the scheme.
Brief description: a man with black hair and beard, seated and working on a baluster-shaped vase; in the background the construction site can be seen with scaffolding and a coloured pillar; in the middle-ground the cherubim of the Ark of the Covenant are visible; underneath a band with birds and foliage in red and blue against a golden background
Exodus 31:1-10: “The LORD said to Moses ... “And behold, I have appointed with him [Bez’alel] Oho’liab, the sone of Ahis’-amach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of the meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereon, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering...” (NRSV)
Exodus, 35:34-36:1: “And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oho’liab the son of Ahis’amach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with ability to do every sort of work done by a craftsman or a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twine linen or by a weaver - by any sort of workman or skilled designer. Bez’alel and Oho’liab and every able man in whom the LORD has put ability and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all the LORD has commanded.” (NRSV)
Exodus 38:21-23: “This is the sum of the things for the tabernacle of the testimony [the temple of Moses], as they were counted at the commandment of Moses, for the work of the Levites under the direction of Ith’amar the son of Aaron the priest. Bez’alel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD commanded Moses; and with him was Oho’liab the son of Ahis’ - amach, of the tribe of Dan, a craftsman and designer and embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twined linen” (NRSV)
Browne 1896, p. 15 [attributing the figures differently from subsequent descriptions]: “The figures in the spaces on the sides of the clerestory windows on the south represent the builders and decorators of the Temple and the Tabernacle, and the earliest visions of a house or tabernacle of God. […] Passing to the middle bay, the figure on the east is Aholiab [now Bezaleel], with the seven-branched candlesticks, and the woven hangings of the Tabernacle behind; and on the west is Bezaleel [now Aholiab] engaged in metal working, with the construction of the pillars going on in the background.”
Literature and references: Browne 1896, pp. ; Zech 2015, pp. 36-37 ill.