Church and Synagogue

Synagogue and Church

To communicate his idea of the demise of all external expressions of religion, including religious institutions, Sargent made a sadly ill-informed choice. As the contrasting “frame” for his central image of Sermon on the Mount, he selected Synagogue and Church, a conventional medieval artistic iconography with an anti-Semitic past. Sargent’s point was to rework the problematic convention and to establish for it a new and current content. He would use the allegorical pair to represent the joint obsolescence of the two institutions. His completed cycle would relegate both to a distant religious past.
East wall
1. Synagogue, installed 1919
Oil on canvas
2. Church, installed 1919
Oil on canvas (1999 photos)
The Triumph of Religion