Uneasy Communion

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vivian B. Mann, curator at the Museum of Biblical Art, discusses the artistic collaboration between Christians and Jews in the Middle Ages.

The exhibition "Uneasy Communion: Jews, Christians, and the Altarpieces of Medieval Spain" tells the story of this fascinating moment of artistic collaboration, and provides a glimpse into the lives of these communities that lived side by side. It's on view at the Museum of Biblical Art through May 30.

Anonymous (Cataluña) -
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Friedsam Collection
Anonymous (Cataluña) - "Christ among the Doctors" (Early 15th century, Tempera and gold on wood)
Conc. Maimonides, Scribe: Levi ben Isaac ben Caro (Barcelona) -
The Royal Library, Denmark
Conc. Maimonides, Scribe: Levi ben Isaac ben Caro (Barcelona) - "Moreh Nevukhim (Guide to the Perplexed)" (1348, Ink, gold, and gouache on vellum)
Miguel Jiménez and Martin Bernart (Zaragoza) -
Museo de Zaragoza
Miguel Jiménez and Martin Bernart (Zaragoza) - "St. Helena Interrogating Judas" (1485-87, Oil on panel)
Miguel Jiménez and Martin Bernart (Zaragoza) -
Museo de Zaragoza
Miguel Jiménez and Martin Bernart (Zaragoza) - "St. Helena Meeting with the Jews" (1485-87, Oil on panel)
Anonymous (Teruel) -
Museo de Teruel
Anonymous (Teruel) - "Tajador (Plate)" (Mid-14th century, Ceramic)
Miguel Jiménez and Martin Bernart (Zaragoza) -
Museo de Zaragoza
Miguel Jiménez and Martin Bernart (Zaragoza) - "Profetas Malaquías, Daniel y Ezequiel (The Prophets Malachi, Daniel and Ezekiel)" (1485-87, Tempera on panel)
Domingo Ram (Aragon) -
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection
Domingo Ram (Aragon) - "Retablo of St. John the Baptist, Annunciation to Zacharias" (Late 15th century, Tempera on wood, gold ground)
Anonymous (Castile) -
The Hispanic Society of America
Anonymous (Castile) - "Retablo of the Virgin and Child, The Circumcision of Jesus" (Second half of the 15th century, Tempera on Panel)
Anonymous (Teruel) -
Museu de Ceràmica, Barcelona
Anonymous (Teruel) - "Plato Seder (Seder Plate)" (15th century, Ceramic: tin, copper and magnese glaze)
Anonymous (Aragon) -
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Anonymous (Aragon) - "Vidal Mayor (MS. Ludwig XIV 6)" (ca. 1290-1310, Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment bound between wood boards covered with modern green morocco)


Dr. Vivian B. Mann

Comments [5]

Helena from LA

It was an inspired opportunity to see "Interfaith" images at the Biblical Museum . As I am working on a screenplay about the life of Saint Helena, these were the ones which interested me. Saint Helena interrogating Judas, is depicting a scene from a much later English poem from 1889 titled "Elene" . A purely fictional account of Saint Helena actions during the time. The other painting by the same artists caught my attention! These painters were obviously Kabbalists. The most potent symbol is the Tree of Life! Notice the nine men (of the nine - two or three tops are Jewish) Notice the base of Helena's seat is the 10th Sephirot. Add the Halo -- (Da'at) and there is the eleventh, which is an illumination within the Tree of Life. The artists could have made this image (which is depicting 326 AD) with the Empress wearing only her crown, which would have been historical accurate. The message is crystal clear. The Tree of Life is alive and well! Love & Light!

May. 27 2010 03:58 PM
Pam from NY

1. Jews "died" during the Inquisition? "Murdered," rather.

2. The ghettos were good for the Jews? How about the fact that there were restrictions on their leaving them; and, what of the difficulties posed to their survival in them by the legal limitations of their earnings of living to rag-selling and pawnbroking!

Lenny: this guest is offensive!

May. 11 2010 12:54 PM
Fox Hart from NYC

The Inquisition was initially targeted at the Moors, even the converted Moors, before it was targeted at the Jews.

She may know her art but she's kind of shaky on history. There's enormous amounts of work published for these areas and times -- but mostly in Spanish. In this country the Islamic populations, the Mosarabic and Mudejar cultures and their art and architectural works and legacy in Spain is left out by scholars for some reason.

It wasn't black and white, Christian - Jewish, Christian - Muslim. It was very fluid -- and almost always fraught.

Good general source is Richard Fletcher's Moorish Spain.

May. 11 2010 12:54 PM
Amy from Manhattan

1391 was also the year when England expelled its Jews--is there any connection?

And the original ghettos may have been favorable for the Jews in them at the beginning, but didn't that change later?

May. 11 2010 12:49 PM
Steve from Brooklyn

I'm in a mixed-faith marriage, and I'm annoyed by the idea that we were all perfectly pure or at constant war in the 'old countries.' Following that logic, our generation is the first to muddy the genetic pool. Clearly, European Jews and Christians look similar so there must have been intermarriage at some point. I like this story as evidence of culture exchanges and collaboration as well as biological evidence of intermarriage. Jewish isolation in the European ghettos and Christian purity are historical realities in many cases, but not the entire story...

May. 11 2010 12:39 PM

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