ARTH 201/601
Between Christianity and Islam:
Jewish Art from Late Antiquity to the Baroque

Instructor: Professor Sabar
R 1:30-4:30

What has been the role of the visual arts in the life of the "nation without art" over the ages? Were the Jews indeed "artless"? This course will introduce the students with major visual monuments in Jewish life and culture since Late Antiquity to the Baroque era. We will discuss the attitude to the visual in biblical and ancient Judaism, the emergence of the synagogue, its architecture and decoration in the Talmudic period (both in the land of Israel and the Diaspora), the illumination of Hebrew manuscripts in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the illustrated printed Hebrew book, Jewish ceremonial art and objects for the home, synagogue and the year and life cycles. Emphasis will be put on the differences between various Jewish communities in Christian Europe and the Islamic East, and how the visual culture of the host societies influenced the artistic creativity among the local Jews. This issue will be examined in light of general Jewish beliefs vis-à-vis the special ways of life, folk customs and rituals of the communities in question. Another major issue is how much this kind of visual evidence is different from and adds to the standard, generally textually based, study of the Jewish past. Knowledge of Medieval Christian and Islamic art can be of help but not required.

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Last update: October 22, 2003

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