Erich Lessing

Splayed palm leaves, like open fans, decorate this ninth- or eighth-century B.C.E. ivory plaque from Samaria. In the biblical description of the Jerusalem Temple, palmettes engraved into wood panels enlivened the entrance to the heikhal and its back wall, as well as the entrance to the Holy of Holies, or dvir, and its walls. The most elaborate artwork, including gold-covered palmettes, ornamented the holiest spaces. When Solomon built the Temple in the tenth century B.C.E., it was regarded as Yahweh’s divine residence. The increasing refinement and costliness of the embellishment from the less sacred space in the courtyard to the most holy space in the dvir reflected the divine presence resident in the Temple, and centered in the dvir.