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The Mystery of the Sassoon Torah Shields A set of Torah shields recently exhibited by Sotheby’s isn’t just beautiful—it also contains a hidden biblical portrait of the court Jew’s inner conflict.
Medieval Echoes Rushing in from the Boston airport on a bright Sunday morning, I breathlessly rolled into Boston College’s Gasson Hall, surprised by the sumptuous kosher lunch set out, and settled into the first of a series of PowerPoint Presentations delivered about illuminated medieval Jewish…
Masterpieces from the Bodleian Library “King Girded With Might,” Tripartite Mahzor, 14th century, courtesy Bodleian Library & Jewish Museum In the eyes of the ram lies the artist’s commentary on the Rosh HaShanah piyyut; “The King Girded with Strength.” From the Tripartite Mahzor (German 14th century),…
Finding Moses: Part I As the year draws to a close we have the book of Deuteronomy before us week after week, reviewing many halachos and reminding us of our harrowing trek through the wilderness. Moshe Rabbeinu is the stern narrator, guiding us to the…
Rylands Haggadah: Medieval Jewish Art in Context The Rylands Haggadah, created in Catalonia Spain sometime around 1330, is a towering masterpiece of Jewish Art.  In addition to pages of piyutim surrounded by ornate decorative and figurative micrography, richly decorated Haggadah text and blessings, there is…
At Home in Florence? The auction at Christie’s in Paris this May 11 of a Tuscan Mahzor, created and illuminated in the 1490s, will be an extraordinary event.  This rare example of illuminated Jewish art has never before been seen publicly in over 500 years…
The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative & Religious Imagination Golden Haggadah, fol. 4v, ca. 1320-1330, illuminated manuscript London, British Library, courtesy The Medieval Haggadah by Marc Michael Epstein, Yale University Press, 2011 The Golden Haggadah was created in Catalonia, Spain sometime around 1320.  So named because all…
The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative & Religious Imagination By Marc Michael Epstein, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2011 The Dura Europos synagogue murals (245 CE) evidenced the first great flowering of Jewish visual creativity, quickly followed by the creation of at least 17…
Mourning, Memory & Art David Roberts (1796-1864) was a Scottish painter who in the late 1830’s traveled extensively in the Levant and Egypt documenting “Orientalist” sites in drawings and watercolors. Together with the lithographer Louis Haghe, he marketed his work to a public eager for…
Considering Dura: Part I The dilemma of the Jewish artist is that he or she is often dismissed out of hand as a cultural and halachic impossibility.  And yet a very real history exists to reveal a great many antecedents.  Jews have made Jewish art…
A Mohel’s Siddur by Aryeh ben Judah Leib Imagine you are a mohel and, thank God, business is booming.  It’s a good living and you even have time to sit and learn in between the jobs that seem to crop up at least once a…
Considering Dura: Part II Dura Europos looms large in the history of Jewish Art not only because of its place as the earliest example of Jewish Art but also because its achievements are seemingly at odds with the conceptual and halachic problems it presents.  The…

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