Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period 9004125655, 9789004125650

This collection of essays re-examines the dynamics of Jewish indentity and Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages

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Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period
 9004125655, 9789004125650

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Editorial Board:

University of California at Berkeley FLORIKE EGMOND, Leiden University GUSTAV HENNINGSEN, Danish Folklore Archives MAYKE DEJONG, University of Utrecht MIRI RUBIN, Pembroke College, Oxford University ELI YASSIF, Tel Aviv University



IMAGINING THE SELF, IMAGINING THE OTHER Visual Representation' and Jewish- Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period EDITED BY



This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and JewishChristian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period / edited by Eva Frojmovic. p. cm. - (Cultures, beliefs, and traditions; v. 15) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 9004125655 1. Jewish art and symbolism. 2. Art, Medieval. 3. Jews in art. 4. Christian art and symbolism,-Medieval period, 500-1500. 5.Jews-Identity. 6.JudaismRelations-Christianity. I. Frojmovic, Eva, 1962- II. Series. N7415 .146 2002 704.9'4896-dc21 2002066745

Die Deutsche Bibliothek - CIP-Einheitsaufnalune Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period / ed. by Eva Frojmovic .. - Leiden ; Boston; Kaln ; Brill, 2002 (Cultures, beliefs and traditions; Vol. 15) ISBN 90-04--12565-5

ISSN 1382-5364 ISBN 90 04 12565 5 © Copyright 2002 by Koninklijke Brilllvv, Leiden, The Netherlands

All rights reserved. No part oj this publication mqy be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any.fOrm or by a'!)' means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or othe1Wise, without prior written permission .from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items.fOr internal or personal use is granted by Brill provided that the appropriate jees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910 Danvers AlA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. PRINTED IN TIlE NETIIERLANDS


List of Contributors .................................................................... List of Illustrations Editor's Foreword


Buber in Basle, Schlosser in Sarajevo, Wischnitzer in Weimar: The Politics of Writing about Medieval Jewish Art .............. .. Eva Frqjmovic Another Flight into Egypt: Confluence, Coincidence, the Cross-cultural Dialectics of Messianism and Iconographic Appropriation in Medieval Jewish and Christian Culture Marc Michael Epstein


Bread of Affliction, Emblem of Power: The Passover Matzah in Haggadah Manuscripts from Christian Spain Michael Batterman


Messianic Politics in re-Christianized Spain: Images of the Sanctuary in Hebrew Bible Manuscripts .................................. Eva Frqjmovic


The Temple is my Body: Gender, Carnality, and Synagoga in the Bible Moralisee .................................................................. Sara Lipton


The Hanged Judas of Freiburg Cathedral: Sources and Interpretations .... .................................. ...... ........................ ........ Annette Weber


Imaging the Self: Representations of Jewish Ritual in Yiddish Books of Customs .................................................................... Diane Wolfthal




Medieval Themes in the Wall-Paintings of 17th and 18th-Century Polish Wooden Synagogues ................................ Thomas C. Hubka


Index ............................................................................................



MICHAEL BATTERMAN, Ph.D. (2000) in Art History, Northwestern University, is Assistant Professor at the School of Art and Design, Southern Illinois University Carbondale. His research focuses on the social and political context for art production among the Jewish, Mudejar, and Christian communities of medieval Christian Spain. MARc MICHAEL EpSTEIN is Associate Professor of Religion and Jewish Studies at Vassar College. He is the author of Dreams if Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (University Park, PA: 1997) and Overthrowing the Idols: A Radical Reappraisal if Jewish Visual Culture (Berkeley: forthcoming). He has been Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby'sJudaica department. He curated the inaugural exhibition of the Herbert C. and Eileen Bernard Museum at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. EVA FROJMOVIC is lecturer in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies, associate director of the AHRB Research Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History, and director of the Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Leeds. She is the co-author (with Frank Felsenstein) of Hebraica and Judaica from the Cecil Roth Collection (Leeds: 1997). She has also published on such subjects as early modern Hebrew book illustration, and representations of circumcision. THOMAS C. HUBKA is Professor of Architecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has published articles on Polish synagogues in Polin and Myth in Judaism (Hebrew); his forthcoming book, Resplendent Synagogue: Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth Century Polish Community, is being published by Brandeis University Press. SARA LIPTON, trained in Medieval Studies at Yale University, is Associate Professor of History at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. She is the author of Images if Intolerance: The Representation if Jews and Judaism in the Bible moralisee (Berkeley: 1999). She is at present working on a study ofJews in scholastic sermons, and another on art, preaching, and piety in the high Middle Ages.



ANNETTE WEBER is curator ofJudaica at the Jewish Museum, Frankfurt am Main, and lecturer at the universities of Frankfurt am Main and Marburg. She is the editor of Mappot-Blessed be who come~ The Band if Jewish Tradition (Osnabrilck: 1997) and ''Auj3erdem waren sie ja auch Menschen ... " Goethes Begegnung mit Juden und Judentum (Berlin: 2000). She has also written about late medieval and early modern German ruralJewries, and on anti-Jewish representations in medieval Christian art. DIANE WOLFIHAL is Associate Professor of Art History at Arizona State University. Her publications include The Beginnings if Early Netherlandish Canvas Painting, 1400-1530 (Cambridge: 1989) and Images if Rape: The "Heroic" Tradition and its Alternatives (Cambridge: 1999), and she is the editor of Peace and Negotiation, Strategies]or Coexistence in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (Turnhout: 2000). She has also published on medieval and Renaissance images of the Wandering Jew, and on symbolic violence in Italian Jewish culture, and is currently completing a book on illustrated Yiddish books in 16th-century Italy.


Illustrations to "Buber in Basle, Schlosser in Sarajevo, Wischnitzer in Weimar: The Politics qf Writing about Medieval Jewish Art" by Eva Frqjmovic (pp. 1-32): 1. The mark of Semitic artistic stagnation: papercut Mizrach bought by Schlosser in Galicia. Paper and paint, late 19th century. After Muller/Schlosser, Haggadah von Sarqjevo, 1898, p. 250 fig. 10. 2. Pan:Jewish modernist Medievalism: Rimon/ Milgroim vol. 1, 1923, p.2.

Illustrations to ''Another Flight into Egypt: Corifluence, Coincidence, the Crosscultural Dialectics qf Messianism and Iconographic Appropriation in Medieval Jewish and Christian Culture" by Marc Michael Epstein (pp. 33-52): 1. Moses and Family Return from Egypt. Golden Haggadah, Barcelona, c. 1320. British Library Add 27210, fo1. lOv 2. Passover Preparations. Golden Haggadah, Barcelona, c. 1320. British Library Add 27210, fo1. 15r 3. Israelites leaving Egypt armed. Rylands Haggadah, Catalonia, c. 1350. John Rylands Library Heb. 6, fo1. 18v 4. "The Egyptians oppressed us ... " Sarajevo Haggadah, Aragon, c. 1320 Sarajevo, National Library Heb. ms 1, part 2, fo1. 13v 5. Israelites in bondage. Barcelona Haggadah, Barcelona, c. 1350, British Library 14761, fo1. 30v

Illustrations to "Bread qf Aifliction, Emblem qf Power: The Passover Matzah in Haggadah Manuscripts flom Christian Spain" by Michael Batterman (pp. 53-89): 1. Matzah from MS Add. 27210, fo1. 44v (By Permission of the British Library) 2. Vision of God enthroned from MS n.a.l. 2290, fo1. 53v (Courtesy of the Bibliotheque nationale de France)



3. Communal distribution of the matzah from Sarajevo, National Museum, Haggada, p. 33 (detail) 4. Communion to the laity from central Italian Breviary, Ms Rossiani 178, fo1. 121 (detail) (By Permission of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) 5. Elevation of the Host from Estatuos de la Cqfradia del Santisimo Sacramento (single leaf, c. 1317) (By Permission of the Colegiata de Tudela) 6. Miraculous Bleeding Host of Dijon from a Book of Hours, use of Rome (Poitiers, c. 1475), MS M. 1001, fo1. 17v (By Permission of the Pierpont Morgan Library) 7. Matzah from MS Mic. 9478, fo1. 29 (Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America) 8. Matzah from MS Add. 14761, fo1. 61 (By Permission of the British Library) 9. Matzah from MS A 422 of Kaufmann Collection, Oriental Library, fo1. 39 (By Permission of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest) 10. Illustration of Solomon's Temple from Peter Comestor's Historia Scholastica in MS Res. 199, fols. 6v-7 (Courtesy of the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid) 11. Wrought iron wafer matrix, Barcelona, 14th or 15th century (Courtesy of the Museu d'Historia de la Ciutat de Barcelona) 12. Privilegio rodado of Alfonso XI (1314), MS n.a.1. 2475, fo1. 3 (Courtesy of the Bibliotheque nationale de France)

Illustration to ''Messianic Politics in re-Christianized Spain: Images if the Sanctuary in Hebrew Bible Manuscripts" try Eva Frqjmovic (pp. 91-128): 1. Sanctuary vessels: Bible, Paris Bibliotheque N ationale hebr. 7, fols. 12v-13 (Perpignan 1299). Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France.

Illustrations to "The Temple is my Body: Gender, Carnality, and Synagoga in the Bible Moralisee" try Sara Lipton (pp. 129-63): 1. The burial of the Old Law. (Commentary to Deut. 34:5). Vienna, ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 62c. Photo: ONB.



2. Synagoga and her offspring, cursed by Jesus Christ, die a horrible death. (Commentary to II Kings 6:21). Vienna, ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 103a. Photo: ONB. 3. Jesus Christ reproves, tears, and makes leprous Synagoga. (Commentary to Numbers 12: 10). Vienna, ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 54d. Photo: ONB. 4. Jewish rites as "the cutting of bodies." (Commentary to Job 1:20). Vienna, ONB cod. 1179, fo1. l46d. Photo: ONB. 5. Jesus Christ expels sin from his kingdom; sin is represented as leprous flesh. (Commentary to Genesis 3:21 ~24). Vienna, ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 4d. Photo: ONB. 6. Jews and sinners accept baptism. (Commentary to Numbers 12:15). Vienna, ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 55b. Photo: ONB. 7. In the upper left, Synagoga welcomes Christ and makes him comfortable. In the upper right are Synagoga and her infertile spouse, who is represented as a Jew. In the lower right, Synagoga grieves and is angered at the 'infidelity' of her children. (Commentary to Kings IV 4:8~20). Vienna ONB cod. 2554, fo1. 58. Photo: ONB. 8. In the upper left, Synagoga and her infertile spouse, represented as Jews bearing an animal sacrifice and a scroll. In the upper right, Synagoga grieves at the 'death' of her children. (Commentary to Kings IV 4: 14~20). Vienna ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 129. Photo: ONB. 9. Synagoga welcomes Jesus Christ and provides him with hearts of good Christians, Holy Scripture, and light from the hearts of the good. (Commentary to IV Kings 4:8~ 10). Vienna ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 128d. Photo: ONB. 10. In the lower left, Synagoga entreats Jesus Christ to revive her offspring. In the upper right, God incarnate draws good souls from Hell through his Passion. In the lower right, Synagoga, now transformed into Ecclesia, renders thanks to Jesus Christ for her revived young. (Commentary to IV Kings 4:28~37). Vienna ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 130. Photo: ONB. 11. In the upper right, Synagoga rejoices in ceremonies, money, and flesh. In the lower right, Synagoga asks to linger in temporal wealth. (Commentary to Judges 11 :37~39). Vienna ONB cod. 1179, fo1. 74. Photo: ONB. 12. In the upper right, Synagoga lingers in 'purses' and earthly delight. In the lower left, Jesus Christ cuts Synagoga into two parts: Christianslfaith andJews/unbelief (Commentary toJudges 11:37~39). Vienna ONB cod. 2554, fo1. 61v. Photo: ONB.



13. In the lower left, carnal molestation approaches a just man to entice him to sin. In the upper right, the just man evades temptation. In the lower right, Synagoga accuses Jesus Christ before her priests and doctors of the law, labeled here "philosophers". (Commentary to Genesis 39:7-12). Vienna, ONB cod. 1179, fol. 16. Photo: ONB. 14. Synagoga rages against Jesus Christ for having killed her philosophers. (Commentary to III Kings 19: 1-3). Vienna, ONB cod. 2554, fol. 53vd. Photo: ONB. 15. Abelard instructs Heloise. Le Roman de la Rose, 14th century. Musee Conde, Chantilly. Photo: Musee Conde, Chantilly IBridgeman Art Library. 16. Queen Blanche presents a Bible moralisee to Louis IX; a cleric instructs a scribe. Bible moralisee dedication page. Pierpont Morgan Library, ms. M. 240, fol. 8. Photo: The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. 17. A sign of Christ's victory; Synagoga's place is occupied by a Jew and Christian laymen. (Commentary to I Maccabees 7:47). Vienna, ONB cod. 1179, fol. 202b. Photo: ONB.

Illustrations to "The Hanged Judas oj Freiburg Cathedral: Sources and Interpretations" by Annette Weber (pp. 165-88): 1. The West Porch in the Tower Hall of the Munster of Freiburg i.Brsg., 1300-10 (Photo: Kunstgeschichtliches Institut, Albert-LudwigsUniversitat Freiburg i.Brsg., with kind permission) 2. The HangedJudas, Tympanum of the West porch of the Munster of Freiburg i.Brsg., 1300-10 (Photo: Kunstgeschichtliches Institut, Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg i.Brsg., with kind permission) 3. Judas hanging himself (Bible moralisee Tripartita, London Brit. Mus. ms. lat. Harley 1527, fol. 56r) 4. Absalom strangled and the hanged Judas (Bible moralisee, Toledo, treasury of the Cathedral, Vol. I, fol. 126) 5. Absalom strangled and the HangedJudas (Bible moralisee Tripartita, Oxford, Bod!. ms. lat. 270b, fol. 158) 6. The suspended Jews (Bible moralisee, Toledo, treasury of the Cathedral, Vol. I, fol. 126) 7. The sin of simony as related to the Hanged Judas (Bible moralisee Tripartita, London. Brit. Lib. ms. 1at. Harley 1525, fol. 56r) 8. The hanged Judas (Bible moralisee, Codex ONB 2554, fol. 47r-d)



9. The hanged Judas (Bible mora lisee, Codex ONB 1179, fol. 109v) 10. Dominican monk preaching (Bible moralisee, Toledo, treasury of the Cathedral, Vol. II, fo1. 221v, commentaries to the prophecies of Zechariah V, 5-11) 11. Three clerics, a mendicant, a priest and a Dominican, frieze of the sculpted Tympanum, Munster of Freiburg i.Brsg. ca. 1300 (Photo: Munsterbauverein Freiburg i.Brsg., with kind permission) 12, 13. Yardsticks for different sizes of breads and a charcoal container, dated 1295 (Photo: author) 14. Yardstick of an ell, inlaid with iron, Munster of Freiburg i.Brsg., tower hall, ca. 1295 (Photo: author) 15. Jews and usurers menacing the Church (Bible moralisee, ONB 2554, fo1. lr-b, commentaries to the beginning of the book of Genesis, the creation) 16. Friars against Jews (Bible moralisee, Toledo, treasury of the Cathedral, Vol. II, fo1. lv, commentaries to the book of Job XLII, 8-12)

Illustrations to «Imaging the Self: Representations if Jewish Ritual in Yiddish Books if Customs" fry Diane Woiflhal (pp. 189-211): 1. Anonymous, Reading if the Megillah, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Reb. 586, fol. 109r. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 2. Johannes Pfefferkorn, Libellus de Judaica Corifessione (Cologne, 1508), fo1. 1b. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. 3. Anonymous, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Reb. 586, fol. 43r. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 4. Anonymous, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Reb. 586, fo1. 42v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 5. Anonymous, Kol ha-Ne'arim, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Reb. 586, fo1. 92v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France.



6. Anonymous, Circumcision, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim) , Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fo1. 115v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 7. Johannes Pfefferkorn, Libellus de Judaica Conjessione (Cologne, 1508), fo1. 5a. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. 8. Anonymous, Wedding Dance, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fo1. 115r. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 9. Anonymous, Purim Parry, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim) , Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fo1. 121v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 10. Anonymous, Bath for Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim) , Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fo1. 53v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationa1e. Credit: Bib1iotheque nationale de France. 11. Anonymous, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim) (Venice, 1600), Oxford, Bodleian Library, Opp. 4°.1004, fo1. 51. Printed book. Credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. 12. Johannes Pfefferkorn, Libellus de Judaica Conjessione (Cologne, 1508), fo1. 6a. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Illustrations to ''Medieval 1hemes in the Wall-Paintings qf 17th and 18thCentury Polish Wooden Synagogues" by 1homas C. Hubka (pp. 213-35): 1. East Central Europe, 2000, showing the location of the town of Gwozdziec (author). 2. Exterior, Gwozdziec Synagogue, view looking northwest (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art). 3. Plan, Gwozdziec Synagogue, showing ark and bimah (author). 4. Section looking south, Gwozdziec Synagogue, showing tentlike cupola along ark-bimah-entrance axis (author). 5. Section, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking west, showing the wallpaintings (author).



6. Section, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking east, showing the wallpaintings (author). 7. Central cupola, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking up toward the peak of the canopy (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art). S. West wall, Gwozdziec Synagogue, showing entrance door and the lattice window above (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art). 9. Cupola detail, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking southwest, showing animals (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art). 10. Cupola detail, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking east, showing animals above the ark (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art). II. Drawing of wall-painting, Ostrich looking at eggs in its nest, south ceiling. Note artist's label reads "ostrich" in Hebrew (author). 12. Drawing of wall-painting, Deer turning and looking backward, north and south ceiling (author). 13. Drawing of wall-painting, Wolf carrying off goat, west wall (author). 14. Gravestone, Miedzboz, Ukraine, ISth century (Courtesy, Dr. D. Goberman). 15. Painted prayer panels, northeast corner, Gwozdziec Synagogue, showing architectural gates (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art). 16. St. Matthew, Ada Gospels, c. SOO-SIS. Trier, Stadtbib1., Cod. 22, fo1. ISv, showing arch and column pattern (Courtesy, George Braziller, Inc.). 17. Worms Mahzor, Worms, Germany, 1272. Jerusalem, JNUL ms Heb. 4 7S1(0)/I, fo1. 39 r (Courtesy, Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem).


Most of the contributors to the present volume met at the International Medieval Congress (Leeds) in July 1999 to discuss issues surrounding the self-representations of Jews and representations of Jews as the Other in Medieval visual culture. The papers discussed illuminated manuscripts and prints across the Jewish/non-Jewish disciplinary divide, in Hebrew, Yiddish, Latin, French, German and Italian. The overall aim of the session was to explore the interconnectedness and tensions between the ways in which the Jewish self was represented in the Middle Ages, and the ways in which the marginal(ized) Jewish Other figured in the visual culture of Medieval Christian Europe. Recent studies have indicated that the Jewish and Muslim Other were integral to Medieval assertions of Christian identity. 1 Our book, then, is neither just about Jewish art, nor is it just about 'Western' (read non-Jewish) art; it is a book that shows how both of those categories are based on specific historical structures of marginalization and exclusion. We felt that such structures of marginalization and exclusion need not be replicated by scholars today. We have much to gain by weaving the Other back into the fabric of the Self. Many methodological issues were discussed fruitfully on that July day. In particular, we debated the connotations of the term 'influence', one of the more poisonous terms of traditional art historical analysis. 'Influence' is a term at once suggestive and vague. It suggests a unilateral relationship in which an active partner acts on a passive partner. Depending on an author's political persuasion, the 'fact' of Christian influence could mean the deplorable lack of national backbone on the part of the Jewish nation, or the desirable extent of Jewish social integration within another nation. 2 In each case, artistic

I For example A. Derbes, Picturing the passion in late Medieval Italy: narrative painting, Franciscan ideologies, and the Levant (Cambridge: 1996); S. Lipton, Images qf Intolerance: 7he Representation qfJews and Judaism in the Bible Moralisee (Berkeley: 1999). D. Weiss, Art and Crusade in the Age qf Saint Louis (Cambridge: 1998). 2 I am indebted here to R. Bonfil, Jewish Lift in Renaissance Italy (Berkeley: 1994), who argues that the term 'influence' bespeaks a kind of cultural colonialism, in which a one-way relationship between a strong (Italian) and a weak (Jewish) term is perpetuated (145f).



practices were believed to be owned by nations, or by Christianity. And so the Gothic could be thought of as Christian, or French, or English-depending on the author's position-but never as Jewish; only as borrowed or imitated by Jews. This 'proprietary approach' to art history shines through some of the early 20th century texts discussed in the introductory essay and elsewhere in this volume. The 'proprietary approach' to art history is an outflow of the nationalist obsession with narratives of pure origins and of authenticity. The nation states, forming at the same time as the discipline of art history, needed to claim nationhood by denying hybridity of any kind. The unclassifiable (in national or racial terms) raised fears of miscegenation, which themselves derived from the ultimate impossibility of making credible claims to radical differences within a Europe united by many old cultural links predating modem national borders. Jews played the part of the notorious border crosser in this scenario. 3 Against a set of teleological national narratives (Jewish or otherwise), I proposed to investigate a series of historically specific moments, each overdetermined by multiple contributing and conflicting factors. Then we can see how the Jewish presence and difference in medieval Europe can help us to question received models of art history, based on nations. 4 How in fact it can help us to discover the exciting complexity and hybridity of medieval art across and beyond the unstable boundaries of Latin Europe. The contributors to this book have tried to see both Jewish and Christian artistic and cultural practices as constitutive of a common and at the same time contested visual culture. And this visual culture was part of a set of common mentalities recognizable even in their specific Jewish or Christian inflections. 5 As my introductory essay indicates, the historiography of medieval Hebrew manuscript illumination-just as the invention of Jewish art 3 See M. Olin, "From Bezal'el to Max Liebermann: Jewish Art in NineteenthCentury Art-Historical Texts", in C. Soussloff, .Jewish Identity in Modern Art History (Berkeley: 1999) 19-40; Z. Bauman, Modernity and Ambivalence (Cambridge: 1991). " J. Alexander, "Medieval Art and Modem Nationalism", in: Medieval art: recent perspectives; A memorial tribute to G.R. Dodwell, ed. G.R. Owen-Crocker and T. Graham (Manchester: 1998) 206-23. 5 Another recent example of such an approach is Ivan Marcus' study of the rituals and cultural practices associated with the initiation into elementary education in the Middle Ages. I. Marcus, Rituals qf Childhood: .Jewish Culture and Acculturation in the Middle Ages' (New Haven: 1996). Marcus offers a layered 'thick' description of a rite of passage which allows him to understand the amorphous world of values and mentalities, shared and contested between Jews and Christians.



as a whole-was intimately linked to the nationalist and racializing paradigms of art history followed widely until very recently. As Linda Nochlin observed a few years ago: This Jewish identity is interwoven with the complex formation of antiSemitism as an ideological position. Indeed, one might say that Jewish identity and the Jew of anti-Semitism are brought into being by the same representational trajectory.6

And the invention of Jewish art, as one important element of the nascent imagined community ofJewish nationhood, was also brought into being by the same representational trajectory. . The contributors to the present book grapple with the central issue of interwovenness in different ways: my own essay proposes to see the iconography of illuminated Hebrew Bible manuscripts in their relationship to the shibboleths ofJewish-Christian polemics. That means interpreting Jewish iconographic choices as strategies either to assert that which Christian anti:Jewish polemics negated (the hope in the Messiah) or to avoid representing contents invested with Christian meanings. 7 In this horizon, Marc Epstein argues for a reinterpretation of the 'fact' that the "Return of Moses' family to Egypt" in the Golden Haggadah is couched in the Christian typology of "The Flight of the Holy Family into Egypt". Epstein shows the subversive meanings which could be generated by Jewish appropriation, rather than imitation. As Epstein points out in his book Dreams if Subversion, If Congress were to commission a mural depicting an eagle and an American flag to hang in the rotunda of the Capitol, and a group of Latino youths were to paint a mural with an eagle and an American flag on the wall of a building in Spanish Harlem, no one would argue that both eagles and American flags mean the same thing. despite their vastly different context ... 8

In his line of argument, "medieval Jewish iconography" was "reactive rather than merely assimilatory".9 Accordingly, the use of the

6 L. Nochlin, "Starting with the Self: Jewish Identity and Its Representation", in: The Jew in the Text: Modernity and the Construction of Identity, ed. L. Nochlin and T. Garb (London: 1995) 7-19 (10). 7 See K. Kogman-Appel, 'Coping With Christian Pictorial Sources: What Did Jewish Miniaturists Not Paint?', Speculum 75 (2000) 816-58. B M. Epstein, Dreams qf Subversion in Medieval Art and Literature (University Park, PA: 1997) II. 9 Ibid. p. 12.



"Holy family" typology for Moses' Return could be used to assert the superiority of Moses' family over Joseph's family, and by implication---scandalously-that ofJudaism over Christianity, thereby standing the theology of Christian supercesssion of Judaism on its head. In a similar vein, Michael Batterman's essay takes up a different aspect of Sephardi Haggadah illustration: the stylized illustration of the Matzah (unleavened bread). Noting the approximation of Matzah illustrations to contemporary Christian emblems of power and glory, such as seals and heraldic compositions, Batterman interprets the Matzah images as Jewish ways of expressing notions of (God's) power and glory as matching or even surpassing Christian signs of worldly glory: "a strategic appropriation of Christian power emblems". In Christian visual culture, the figure of the Jew tended to have a meaning at once simpler and more complex, as the contributions of Sara Lipton and Annette Weber show. As Lipton framed the issue III her book, Images if Intolerance: Jews and Judaism are a central-I would even suggest in some ways the fundamental-theme of the artistic program of these manuscripts. Why should this be so? After all, the Bibles moralisees were made by and for Christians ... 10

Lipton has followed the pictorial and exegetic strategies employed by the authors (including the illustrators) of the Bible moralisee with reference to the allegorical figure of Synagoga. The multiple levels of meaning ascribed to Synagoga are protean and have very little to do with 'real' living Jews. Synagoga is a trope of Otherness, even Otherness within, of carnality and of the feminine, and is sometimes deployed to signify deviant Christian positions such as those of 'heretics' and 'philosophers'. It is an abstraction similar to the metaphor "living letters of the law" analyzed by Jeremy Cohen in his recent book-a theological construct fulfilling specific social needs.!! Annette Weber's essay argues that the naturalistic sculpture of the hanged Judas in the porch of Freiburg cathedral visualizes as much 13th century anxieties about urbanization and spread of the money economy, as it does anti-Jewish attitudes. The figure of Judas the 10 S. Lipton, Images if Intolerance: TIe Representation if Jews and Judaism in the Bible Moralisee (Berkeley: 1999) 1. II J. Cohen, Living Letters of the lnw: Ideas of the Jew in kledieval Christianity (Berkeley: 1999).



Jew becomes a trope for all that is threatening in the modern world of the 13th century. In the late Middle Ages, the impact of traditional tropes ofJ udaisml Jewishness was increased by the advent of the modern technology of printing. But new strategies of the self also surface. In the Yiddish custom book discussed by Diane Wolfthal, we encounter a community which did not represent themselves as the victims of Christian persecution. In the custom book, the early 16th-century draftsman has utilized the artistic language of the early Renaissance to create detailed scenes of Jewish life as it was-or as it should have been. Men, women and children, while meticulous in their observance, act in a spirit of joie de vivre. The discourse of the custom book allows them and us to ignore the harsh realities of life as a minority, but neither is this an instance of eschatological escapism: the diasporic present is considered good. It is sometimes said that the Middle Ages lingered among the Jewish community of early modern Europe. Tom Hubka's essay indicates the continuity of a symbolic world ultimately derived from classical and medieval Jewish texts. Scholars of the Wissenschafl des Judentums would undoubtedly have cited the supposed backwardness of the Osijudentum, a backwardness due to the oppressed status of those communities, as well as to the alleged oppressive nature of rabbinical learning and Kabbalah. Today we are inclined to examine structural transformations and structures of longue duree in a less modernist partisan spirit. We can see that what we call 'the Renaissance' was a cultural sea change predicated on specific conditions obtaining only in Christian culture, because Jews did not have a pagan antiquity to be 'reborn' into-although Christian Hebraists of the Renaissance saw the flowering of philosophical and kabbalistic learning of their time as a Jewish form of reclaiming their own ancient traditions. Yet traditional motifs could and did acquire new meanings with the transformations of early modern Judaism, and the medieval motifs we encounter in Polish wooden synagogues speak a traditional language to express new desires. It is too early to say whether a challenge to the canon is possible through the simultaneous consideration of Jewish and Christian visual cultures. I believe there is something to be gained from confronting the Bible moralisee with the Golden Haggadah, and the Mikdashyah Bibles with the Cantigas de Santa Maria. Such conjunctions and



disjunctions beyond the search for formal or iconographic influences allow us to question some canonized notions of medieval visual culture.

Acknowledgments As editor, I would like to acknowledge the direct and indirect assistance of many people and institutions. The International Medieval Congress offered us the first platform for discussion. The preparation of this volume was supported by a Research Leave Grant from the University of Leeds. As always, Benjamin Richler from the Institute for Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts in Jerusalem has generously shared that collection's rich resources. Colleagues across the globe have been most forthcoming in supplying me with materials and information. My colleagues at the University of Leeds have given me much inspiration and have helped me to challenge received ways of thinking about the canon of art history. Brill's anonymous peer reviewer provided useful criticism and suggestions. And Brill's Julian Deahl, Marcella Mulder and Tanja Cowall have been more than encouragmg.


In recent years, the practices of national and racial exclusion in early art history have come under critical scrutiny.l Historiographical studies have focused on the co-emergence of art history and of a historically situated modernity-the modernity of the industrialized, nationalist, imperialist and racializing West. Paradoxically, this coemergence of modernity and art history contributed to the construction of the history ofJewish art. So it is a field of study implicated in the paradoxes of modernity. Jewish art was self-consciously conceived as an object of study in its own right, against dominant accounts of Western national arts that excluded Jewish artistic practice or representation. As an epistemological object, Jewish art was constructed by its proponents as equivalent not to Christian art, but to French or German art. Equivalent but separate, because 'French' or 'German', as constructed by nationalist art historians, a priori excluded jewish' (as well as each other). In a move to establish modern European national artistic 'schools' as normatively universal, the Christianness of French or German culture was naturalized, i.e. its cultural-religious particularity was not acknowledged. But by conceptualizing Jewish art as equivalent with German or French art, the early historians ofJewish art adopted the very nationalist and eurocentric paradigms that had excluded them in the first place. In resisting the implications that these paradigms had for any account of Jewish creativity, they confirmed the paradigms. Thus Jewish art was formed in the master's image: forever anxious about its autonomous essence (thereby confirming notions of the Jews' foreignness and derivativeness), anxious to affirm a bounded, monolithic, I See: M. Olin, "'Early Christian Synagogues' and Jewish Art Historians': The Discovery of the Synagogue of Dura-Europos", Marburger Jahrbuchfiir Kunstwissenschafl 27 (2000) 7-28; Mirzoeff (2000); Steyn (1999); Soussloff (1999); K. Biddick, "Paper Jews: Inscription/Ethnicity/Ethnography", Art Bulletin 78/4 (1996) 594-99; Garb and Nochlin (1995).



and unchanging imagined community that lacked only a territory to legitimate its nationhood. This 'anxiety of influence' has continued to reverberate in the interminable debates around the question: "Is there a Jewish art?" The scholars involved on the Jewish side' of these debates exerted all their strength to reject the judgment of an imagined international jury that had declared Jewish art either an impossibility or a monstrosity-an impossibility due to the Jewish ineptitude for artistic creation; a monstrosity due to the inborn excess of the deformed and diseased Jewish Oriental body. Were historians and critics of Jewish art the academic subalterns of art history? In a study of early art historical surveys, Margaret Olin has shown how any notion of Jewish artistic subjecthood was excluded from the domain of art history-not because individual scholars happened to hold deplorable prejudices, but because mechanisms of exclusion were embedded at the very core of the young discipline. 2 And Kalman Bland has shown how a Hegelian model made a Jewish art inconceivable, because art-like all culture-flows from the spirit of the nation and from the nation state.:I Arguably, the same Hegelian model made the quest for Jewish art possible. In other words, it is precisely the assumption that the Volksgeist determines aesthetics which ultimately gives rise to the question of whether the Jewish people, in the absence of a nation state, possessed an art. The negation of Jewish art and the construction of Jewish art flow from the same source. The moment in which a historical mode of studying Jewish art emerged is not an arbitrary one: it relates dynamically to two other developments: the politics of Jewish identities in 19th- and early 20th-century Europe, and the models then available to the young discipline of art history. These two factors together have determined the ways in which Jewish art is studied to this day. The dominant paradigm for the study of art history has remained that of national styles. The trouble is that unlike histories of western national arts, that ofJewish art could never follow the established models unproblematically, and it could never fit comfortably onto the map of art history, for Jewish art was nowhere on the (geographic) map.4 Neither a geographic nor a stylistic unit was

Olin (1999). Bland (1999) and Bland (2000). 4 Nelson (1997). See Boyarin J. (1992) 61, writing about M. Zborowski and E. Herzog's essentialized Shted in Life is with People (New York: 1952). 2




discernible. As a result, religious or quasi-religious metaphysical essences (such as 'the spirit of monotheism') have been invoked to impose a unity on a diasporically heterogenous material. So Jewish artifacts have tended to remain in an untheorized space between nation, race, and religion, and outside general period surveys. Only individual modern Jewish artists could be absorbed into an universalized, modernist narrative history of artists. But such a narrative would not allow the specificity of their diasporic positions to be acknowledged. This is not the place to intervene in the debate around "What is Jewish art?" or "Is there a Jewish art?". Instead, I propose to look at the historical and intellectual contexts that have given rise to such debates. To answer 'Jewish art is ... " and "Yes, there is a Jewish art" is to create an object of knowledge; it is important to stress the culturally determined character of this knowledge creation, and to move away from the notion of a quasi-Linnean system of classification of art historical knowledge, which sooner or later had to lead to the 'discovery' (i.e. the finding of something overlooked) of Jewish art. This deceptively natural 'discovery' was made possible because national boundaries (and sometimes the desire for national boundaries) had for a long time defined cultural boundaries, which were further naturalized by the concept of race. The science of race has receded from the purview of European art history since World War II, but has lingered in the conceptualization of center and periphery, civilization and primitivism. A re-reading of some early works about medieval Jewish art shows the faultlines that appear when race, nation and culture do not map onto each other. The initial heated debates about Jewish art took place in German speaking countries and Eastern Europe, where the relationship between national and cultural boundaries was particularly problematic. Studies by David Brenner and Gavriel D. Rosenfeld on the journal Ost und West have brought into focus the politics of Jewish culture in turnof-the-century Germany, and have shown how a pan:Jewish secular cultural identity was forged at that time out of a variety of western models of nationhood and Eastern European models of ethnicity.5 In what follows, I will compare this process with emergent concepts 5 D.A. Brenner, Marketing Identities: The Invention if Jewish Ethnicity in 'Ost und West' (Detroit: 1998). Brenner's study focuses on literary stereotyping, with limited consideration of the visual material. For the latter, see G. Rosenfeld, "Defining jewish Art' in Ost und West, 1901-1908: A study in the nationalization of Jewish culture", Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 39 (1994) 83-[10.



of medieval Jewish art at that time, and offer a reading of some early episodes in the creation of the object of study 'medieval Jewish art'. By contextualizing these episodes within the cultural and political struggles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in central Europe, we can see the origins of some problematics which still today bedevil studies of art created for or by Jews: especially the dialectics between 'foreign' (read Christian or Islamic) influences and Jewish essentialized particularity. In this regard, three moments in the creation of Jewish art as an independent object of knowledge will interest me. The first (not in chronological order) is Martin Buber's speech about Jewish culture at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basle in 1901. What is of particular interest there is the context: the centrality of a historical consciousness of a unified Jewish culture for the 'imagined community', which Buber proposed against the elitist but culturally neutral political Zionism of Herzl. The second key moment addresses more specifically a major subject of this book, medieval illuminated manuscripts: this is the 1898 publication in facsimile of the Sarajevo Haggadah, the first detailed modern study of a Hebrew illuminated manuscript. The contributions to that facsimile edition truly mark the invention of medieval Jewish art, but they do this in a contradictory way: while the non:Jewish art historian Julius von Schlosser subscribed at least in part to a racialist concept of 'the Jew', the Jewish scholar David Kaufmann sketched the art history of a newly invented nation. The third key moment I shall analyze is a group of writings on medieval Jewish art in the Weimar period, in particular by Rachel Wischnitzer. A close reading shows how the sensibilities of German modernism created an opening for the appreciation of medieval Jewish art, seemingly on its own terms.

Buber in Basle: Discovering the National Past in Art At the fifth Zionist Congress in 1901, the philosopher and Jewish educator Martin Buber (1878-1965) delivered a controversial speech about Jewish culture. 6 In his lecture, Buber outlined a program for 6 Buber's importance for 20th-century Jewish cultural formations has been recognized especially in connection with the rediscovery of the Osduden and of Jewish mysticism. P. Mendes-Flohr, "Fin-de-Siecle Orientalism, the Ostjuden and the Aesthetics of Jewish Self-Affirmation", Studies in Contemporary Jewry I (1984) 96-139.



a Jewish Renaissance on the basis of shared history and culture; this historical consciousness he exemplified in music, literature and art. Until our time, visual art has developed in the Jewish people only in embryonic fashion, only tentatively. Its main field of activity has been the decoration of ritual objects, and many old synagogues are the beautiful site of such artifacts. Until recently all these works were dispersed, until systematic collecting started a few years ago. It is the merit of the Society for the Research and Conseroation if Historical and Artistic Monuments ifJudaism in Vienna, the Society for the Research ifJewish Artistic Monuments in Frankfurt and the Society for Jewish Ethnography in Hamburg to have created centers in which all the things are assembled, which the naively creative hand of our people has brought forth in the course of the centuries. All these institutions form effectively one collection of ancient Jewish art ... From all these collections we can discern the dark, laborious groping of a people for whom visual art is not a natural form of expression, but who nevertheless desires beauty for the objects of its environment, at least its festive environment. 7

Here Buber posits a Jewish Kunstwollen (collective artistic will), which remains in an unresolved tension with the alleged Jewish ineptitude for visual art. 8 This tension is due to the received notion of the Jews as an artless people, a people opposed through its alleged aurality to Greco-Roman pagan visuality. As Kalman Bland has shown, this Hegelian dualism was appropriated by apologetic Jewish thinkers in Protestant Gennany, who elevated Jewish artlessness to a mark of spiritual nobility.9 Although Buber gestures towards a national Jewish art (hence the 'virtual' Jewish National Art Museum in Vienna, Frankfurt and Hamburg), Jewish art in the full canonic sense-as a body of work which could equal the artistic practice of his European national models-is only a future hope for him. So he sees the present as a time when Jewish art is in the process of becoming-a secular messianic note is sounded here-rather than something already achieved. For the same fifth Zionist Congress, Martin Buber and the Jugendstil artist Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874-1925) curated an exhibition of

SterlOgraphi5ches Protokoll (190 I) 159£ For the usc of this concept, particularly in the writings of Alois Riegl (1858-1905), see M. Olin, Forms rif Representation in Aloli Riegl's 1heory rif Art (University Park, PA: 1992) and M. Iversen, Aloli Riegl: Art Hlitory and 1heory (Cambridge, Mass.!London: 1993). 9 See Bland (1999). The Protestant myth of Je"vish aurality, as counterposed to pagan visuality, was embraced and appropriated by Heinrich Graetz in the mid19th century. Its persistence is evidenced in L. Kochan, Beyond the Graven Image: A Jewlih Vuw (London: 1997) and A. Julius, ldolliing Pictures (London: 2001). 7




Jewish artists.lO The selection of painters, engravers, sculptors and architects clearly betrays the modernist project of the curators. And modernism then meant above all impressionism and Jugendstil. Several of the artists were active Zionists, but other forms of legitimation were also admitted (Joseph Israels' stature as the Jewish Rembrandt', for example). Note the choice of Bendemann, a successful Nazarene painter and convert to Protestantism, in preference to Bendemann's friend and ex-Nazarene, the orthodox Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, painter of nostalgic Jewish genre scenes. While Oppenheim's most successful paintings might have been dismissed by Lilien and Buber as sentimental assimilationist invocations of Jewish integration in Germany, Bendemann's painting Jeremiah at the Fall qfJemsalem (1836) could be read as casting in heroic mode a foundational moment of Jewish exile and nationhood. In Adrian Rifkin's words, on the link between violent conquest and identity: Conquering or being conquered alike deposit the violent archaeology of a fragile and unstable identity, which is made out of nothing if not effacements, now of self and now of other, in a complex, unfinished reinvention. II

It is interesting to note that despite Buber's romantic interest in the religiosity of the Hasidim as a sourcc of spiritual renewal, no premodern artifacts were included in the exhibition. Inka Bertz has elucidated the specific intellectual matrix of the Jewish Renaissance around 1900: she has described the sensibility, intellectual as well as aesthetic, of the various (mostly anti-Liberal) reform movements of fin-de-siecle Germany with which the Jewish Renaissance was so consonant. Buber's speech and the ensuing heated debates, and his and 10 A checklist is included in the Stenographisches Protokoll as appendix D, 459-60. It comprised 48 works, including paintings by Eduard Bendemann, Jehuda Epstein, Mauricy Gottlieb, Josef lsraels, Alfred Lakos, E.M. Lilien, Oscar Marmorek, Alfred Nossig, Hermann Struck, and Lesser Ury. The predominance of the German 'cultural sphere', i.e. Germany and Austro-Hungary, is almost total in this exhibition: with the exception of the Dutchman Israels, all the artists exhibited came from Germany/ Austro-Hungary. For analyses of the exhibition, see Cohen (1998) 209, and I. Bertz, 'Jewish Renaissance-Jewish Modernism", in Bilsky (1999) 164 -87; un Lilien as creator of early Zionist iconography, see M. Berkowitz, Zionist Culture and West European Jewry bifore the First World War (Cambridge: 1993) 128-9; Y. Zalmona, E.M. lilien, Zeichnungen (Munchen: 1987). 11 A. Rifkin, "Parvenu or Palimpsest: Some Tracings of the Jew in 1\1odern France", Garb and Nochlin (1995) 276-91 (276). On Oppenheim, see G. Heuberger and A. Merk eds., Morit;: Daniel Oppenheim: Die Entdeckung des jiidischen Selbstbewusstseins in der Kunst/Jewish ldentiry in 19th Century Art (Frankfurt: 1999).



Lilien's exhibition of modern Jewish artists show up the problems inherent in the construction of a modern Jewish national art. Buber and Lilien presumed to construct, on behalf of a very heterogenous assembly of diasporic representatives, a cultural community.12 It is clear from the stormy reception of Buber's speech that the concept of Jewish art as part of a national Jewish culture was a highly political issue. 13

Schlosser in Sarqjevo: Jewish 'Stubbornness' in the Sarqjevo Haggadah Facsimile if 1898 The politics of Jewish art are configured differently in the archetype of the modern study of medieval Hebrew illuminated manuscripts, the Sarajevo Haggadah facsimile of 1898. 14 Here, we witness the struggle about the essence of jewish art' as a quasi-national, ethnic concept saturated with contemporary anxieties of racial miscegenation. Die Haggadah von Sarajevo was co-authored by two non-Jewish Viennese scholars-the orientalist David Heinrich Muller and the art historian Julius von Schlosser, curator at the Kunsthistorisches Hofmuseum-and by the Jewish scholar and bibliophile David Kaufmann, an eminent exponent of the Wissenschqfl des Judentums. MUller contributed an essay on the liturgical and poetic texts, Schlosser an art historical analysis of Haggadah illuminations; the two also coauthored a bibliographic and art historical survey of illustrated Haggadot. David Kaufmann's overview "On the history of Jewish manuscript illumination" was added as an appendix. 15 The facsimile of the Haggadah was a partial one: only the full-page painted leaves were reproduced in the facsimile volume, thus privileging the 12 The resolution he proposed included: a subvention for the newly founded Judischer Verlag (rejected); a project for a Jewish university (accepted); a subvention for a Jewish National Library in Jerusalem (accepted); and a program to approach the Nobel prize committee for a recognition of both Hebrew and Yiddish literature (rejected, but an informal approach was agreed). 13 This is corroborated in Cohen (1998), especially chapters 4 and 5. He has shown how the early Judaica collections embodied the local politics of Jewish culture as well as contemporary museum theory. See also G. Cohen Grossman and R.E. Ahlborn, Judaica at the Smithsonian: Cultural Politics as Cultural Model (Washington, DC: 1997), and B. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums and Heritage (Berkeley: 1998) 79-128. 14 Muller and Schlosser (1898). IS Kaufmann (1898).



'artwork' preceding the text of the Haggadah proper. The illuminations within the actual Haggadah text were dispersed, reproduced out of context within the companion volume in the form of isolated 'colored decorative pieces'. The Hebrew text folios, which comprise the bulk of the manuscript, were not included at all in the facsimile. The result is a picture bible with maximum visual impact but minimal intrusion by Hebrew text. 16 The problem of the Jewishness of the manuscript's illumination looms large throughout the volume but is never really resolved. It comes to the fore in the analysis of so-called archaisms, which for Muller and Schlosser instantiate the Jews' oriental essence: But especially in the ornamental part, some archaisms are manifest. In part, these are explicable through the manuscript's presumed provenance from a borderland of western art; in part, they are due to the Jewish element, which still retains, with the strange tenacity typical of this tribe, on curiously decorated everyday objects, tombstones and house amulets, in its homeland Palestine as well as in the Slavic Northeast, some ancient forms, reaching back to Romanesque and earlier art. 17

Such characterizations of Jewish artistic creativity as tenacious probably derive from the anti-Jewish trope of 'the stiff-necked people'. The 'tenacity of this tribe' links the Jewish element' to the contradictory figure of the unchanging 'Oriental', a figure embodying both excess and inertia. The stubborn immutability of Jewish art across time and space is a manifestation of the stubbornness with which the Semitic languages allegedly refused to evolve (and the stubbornness with which the Jews refused to recognize Jesus as the Savior).18 This set of assumptions is constantly undermined by the meticulous comparative method with which Schlosser determines that the Haggadah 16 The 35 facsimile plates of the atlas are taken, with one exception, from the picture bible preceding the textual part of the manuscript. The facsimile takes full advantage of a range of novel reproductive techniques: in the companion volume, the frontispiece and eight Haggadah text illustrations are in chromotype (i.e. full color and gold); 38 collotypes (black and white plates) reproduce other illuminated Haggadah manuscripts. 17 Muller and Schlosser (1898) 25. For other references to Jewish 'stubbornness' see ibid. p. 215: " ... finally the expectation of the entry of the prophet Elijah, who is to conduct the faithful into the peace of God, whereby this peculiar part-cheerful, part-gloomy celebration (imbued with the true spirit of ancient oriental Judaism) stands out fantastically in its blaze of lights from the background of the hostile darkness of the night." and p. 235: " ... the old decorative scheme retained with the tenacity of Judaism." 18 On 'Semitic stagnation', see Olender (1992) 56.



shares all the characteristics of the northern Spanish style of the 14th century. This local style would account for the observed eclecticism and archaisms, and contradicts the assumption of a unified essence of Jewish art. But at the transition point between his discussion of the 'Hispanic' and the 'Germanic' types of illustrated Haggadah, Schlosser interposes a disturbing digression on the cultural and racial differences between Sephardim and Ashkenazim: This older type [of HaggadahJ ... is found in the southern Mediterranean romance speaking countries, in Spain and Italy. Hence we can call it the Hispanic [spagnolischJ type. It originated in the midst of the Jewish aristocracy, the Sephardim ... who stand in characteristic contrast to their northern, truly continental ethnic kinfolk [StammesgenossenJ, the Ashkenazim, the 'German' Jews, from whom they differ conspicuously in physiognomy to this day. Here we find an interesting case of how different historical milieus influence the character of one people in different ways: the Hispanic Jews, advantaged already by a milder and harmonious climate, were not oppressed by the pressure which made their ethnic kinfolk in the north and northeast wither. But there also seem to be racial differences; this is of special significance now that the development of modern natural sciences points us to the question of phylogenesis, and the role of ethnicity in the work of art ... We may assume then that the Hispanic Jews owe their bold, proud physiognomy to the admixture of Moorish blood; compared to them, the German Jews (and also the 'Ashkenazim' of France and Italy) differ physiognomically; this cannot be explained purely from the Nordic fatherland and its social and historical milieu. It might almost appear as if they had a Turanic admixture, especially in the East, just like the Slavs and slavicized peoples. 19

Schlosser was obviously relying on racio-linguistic research. His text tries to account for the stylistic and typological differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi illuminated Haggadot through an analysis of the physiological and cultural differences among the Jews. So the application of racial theories led in this case to the reductio ad absurdum of monolithic notions of race. Schlosser had to admit the possibility of miscegenation-though not between Jews and Aryans, only between Jews and other, (inferior) non-western races. According to this view, in Spain Jews mixed with Moorish (i.e. 'Hamitic'I'Black') blood; in Northern Europe with 'Turanian' blood. The term 'Turanian' originated in mid-19th-century linguistics-a loose but value-laden construct employed to delimit a hypothetical language family associated 19

Miiller and Schlosser (1898) 216-8.



with the 'nomadic races of Asia', in contradistinction to the 'agricultural or Aryan races'.20 Both 'Moorish' and 'Turanian' point to inferior races outside the circle of Western progressive civilization. Similarly, Hebrew, the language thought to have molded the Jewish spirit, was thought to be immutable and static-a questionable compliment in a culture of progress. 21 Schlosser's text reveals full awareness of contemporary debates on race-- anthropological versus linguistic race concepts, i.e. blood versus language. What stands out is the scholar's determination to mitigate the threatening evidence of racial miscegenation: Jewish art confirmed that the Jews mixed with inferior races-with 'Moors', 'Turanians' (marginals with respect to Europe, like the Jews themselves), but not with the Aryans among whom the Jews actually lived. His excursus on Sephardim and Ashkenazim is torn between the recognition and the rejection of racial differences as determinants of artistic differences. Then there is the problem of the relationship between Jewish and Christian art-which is prior? Needless to say, the two terms are seen as self-contained and mutually exclusive. Schlosser opts firmly for a filiation of Jewish art out of Christian art: The Bosnian manuscript ... shows clearly the growth of the illustrated Haggadah out of Christian Bible illustration. In the absence of the Hebrew tituli, we could claim the entire Biblical sequence (with one single characteristic exception) as a Christian product. 22

He then sketches briefly a survey of the contemporary Christian moralized and historiated Bibles, as potential models for the Jewish illuminator: "The Jewish illuminators of Spain, too, undoubtedly kept Christian models in their workshops and adapted them to their 20 Max Miiller, Lectures on the Science if limguage, 2nd series (1861-64) 1. 276 [1859]: "The name Turanian is used in opposition to Aryan and is applied to the nomadic races of Asia as opposed to the agricultural or Aryan races"; C. Bancroft, The Footprints if Time, and a Complete Anafysil if our American System if Government, (Burlington, Iowa: 1879) I, 30 illustrates the metaphoric use of the term: ''Turanian means 'outside' or 'barbarian,' and was given hy the later and hetter known races who found them, commonly in a very wild, undeveloped state." For a critique of this racializing terminology, see M. Bernal, Black Athena: 77le Ajioasiatic Roots qf Clauu:al Civilization, vol. I: The Fabrication if Ancient Greece, 1785-1985 (London: 1991) [1987]; Olender (1992). The current term is U ral-Altaic. 21 E. Renan, General History and Comparative System qf Semitic Languages (1855), Oeuvres completes, ed. H. Psichari (Paris: 1947-61), cited and discussed in Olender (1992) 52-74. We can discern in these debates the binary opposites of "dynamic polytheist progressive artistic Aryan conquerors" and "static monotheist backward artless Semites". n Muller and Schlosser (1898) 227.



needs." (229) While he assumed Christian models, Schlosser excluded a Christian identity for the Haggadah illuminator: For it is unlikely on religious grounds that a Christian illuminator executed these images. The Jewish identity of the executing artists is evident from the closeness to the text, and by later developments. Already in the much older Mahzor in Prof. Kaufmann's collection, a peculiarly Jewish spirit stirs. But now, Jewish legend begins to proliferate luxuriantly, with its often rather curious tendrils; but Christian art always remains the soil ['Mutterboden'] for these wild shoots, as it could not be otherwise. 23 This is a theory of Jewish creativity as grafted onto the practice of Christian art. The Jewish spirit needs the Christian topsoil to become fertile. Note: not Jewish matter and Christian spirit, as one would perhaps expect from the traditional polarity between Jewish carnality and Christian spirituality.24 No actual Christian models are produced in the Haggadah von Sarajevo. And so the general claim ofJewish derivativeness had to be all the more suggestive for lack of concrete evidence. We find here a biologism of linear development, which assumes that styles are somehow naturally ascribable to a religious/ ethnic group, and that any other group has to acquire them in some special way, as if they were foreign bodies. In his conclusion Schlosser describes the origin and development of medieval Haggadah illustrations as a 'remarkable drama'. And that drama consists in the almost redemptive 'return' of an art to the people from which it originated: It returns to the people from whose peculiar disposition it has sprung, in the forms acquired from the northern Celtic-Germanic tribes, in a foreign dress, but spirit from its spirit. Just like these Jews themselves, one of the most constant and yet mobile races on earth has adopted language and custom from its fellow citizens in whose midst it lives unmixed and stationary, isolated by their religious institutions and by their being hated. The assimilation to the artistic language of forms [i.e. style] developed among Christians was not made easy for them, especially in the north, where prejudice precluded them from practicing almost any noble art and any craft; add to that the Semitic tribe's Muller and Schlosser (1898) 230-4. To savor the horticultural metaphor, one is tempted to contrast this with Wittgenstein's slightly later assertion that "the Jewish mind does not have the power to produce even the tiniest flower or blade of grass that has not grown in the soil of another's mind." L. Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (Oxford: 1980) 19, cited in Gilman (1991) 128. 23 24



long disuse of, probably also their lack of aptitude for, the plastic arts. This limitation, only overcome by the revolutions of our century, can still be felt in the present; as active and talented as Jewry has shown itself in other arts, especially in music, with the exception of the Dutchman Israels there is hardly a first rate painter among them. Its peculiar suppleness, the talent for emulation ['Anempfindung'] is already conspicuous in the earliest monuments of its artistic activity; being of extremely recreative rather than creative disposition, it has never been able to develop an independent language of forms and has never gone beyond skillful imitation. 25

How strange, this sudden jump from the Middle Ages to the present, which betrays in a flash the links between medievalist scholarship and the 19th-century jewish question'. For Schlosser, the Viennese Jewish musicians of his day were still members of the same Semitic tribe who had rejected idolatry ... presumably because those ancestors were no good at sculpture! Schlosser then provides literary parallels for this phenomenon of emulation ('Anempfindung'), after which he returns to the alleged Jewish paradox of tenacity coupled with mobility: Two peculiar, opposed characteristics of Judaism-the tenacious holding on to the inalienable physical and spiritual basis of originary specificity and at the same time the easy mobility and skill in appropriating even the remotest national traits 26-explain its almost incomparable position within occidental culture. But even in this area Uiterature], the excessive fantasy of the Orient with its tendency to exaggeration and monstrosity manifests itself, as is apparent in the Apocalypse. . . Thus these popular poems degenerate sometimes into the formless and tasteless; we have encountered similar traits in the manuscripts of the younger Haggadah type [i.e. the Ashkenazi]. Thus already in the Middle Ages we see the Jews participate actively in occidental culture, though they do this by emulation ['anempfindend'] rather than creatively.... But this remarkable mobility and agility is balanced quasi-providentially by an inertia ['Beharrungsvermogen'] without equal. 27

The concrete example Schlosser gives of this 'providential inertia' is a contemporary paper-cut Mizrach (a marker, decorated with appropriate symbols, for the eastern/prayer wall), which Schlosser had Gilman (1991) 240···1. Cited (and slightly abbreviated) by Schlosser after F. von der Hagen, Die romantische und Volks-Litteratur der Juden in Jiidisch-Deutscher Sprache. Abhandlungen der Koniglichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin (Berlin: 1854) I. V. d. Hagen, while not free from anti-Judaism, alleges that the Jewish and German people are similar in this respect. 27 Muller and Schlosser (1898) 247-8. 25




bought from a Galician "poor deformed Jewish boy, who cut and pasted such tablets laboriously from paper painted by himself, without instruction, after inherited models ... Through the baroque form, medieval motifs still shine through clearly". (249) The evocation of the diseased Jewish body-the deformed, untutored child artist who somehow naturally (simply by virtue of being Jewish) perpetuates medieval motifs-conjures up the monolithic and threatening image of a diseased race. Here we find all the marks of Jewish creativity: Semitic stagnation, a diseased body and mind, the excess of the Oriental in the midst of Aryan Europe (fig. 1). The young Schlosser had clearly absorbed the 'assumptions of identity' in the art historical survey volumes of his time, whose national art histories created a (re)construction of biblical jewish' artistry as oriental/excessive (i.e. too particularistic) while at the same time imitative and eclectic (i.e. lacking in national identity).28 In these surveys, needless to say, postbiblical Jewish artefacts had no place, just as postbiblical Judaism could not be admitted to be of any value. The wider context of Schlosser's symptomatic excursus on the Galician papercut includes 19th-century debates on Jewish creativity in relation to the new human sciences. One example that comes to mind is that initiated by Cesare Lombroso and his evolutionist and racial medicalization of creativity. In a remarkably circular argument, he found that Jews had failed to produce real geniuses "because they have not yet accomplished their ethnic evolution; this they show by the obstinacy with which they cling to their ancient beliefs".29 In his conclusion, Schlosser quotes the Jewish bibliographer Moritz Steinschneider to the effect that "what makes the study of Jewish literature so difficult is not the Hebrew language but foreignness, whose origin is itself the problem." (251) And, following Steinschneider, he postulates that the value of the study of Jewish medieval art lies in its contribution to the study of general art history. What we are witnessing here is the conflict, within one scholarly personality, of opposed approaches to the politics of art history, and also the difficult struggle involved in the emergence of Schlosser's later liberal attitudes.

28 For these exclusionary assumptions and practices in early art historical writing, see Olin (1999) and M. Olin, "Nationalism, the Jews, and Art History", Judaism 45/4 (1996) 461-82. 29 C. Lombroso, The Man if Genius (London: 190 I) 136-7. The German translation had appeared in 1890. See Gilman (1991) 132, 270 n. 10. Lombroso was himself Jewish.



Jewish creativity be:Y0nd race: David Kazifmann's "On the History if Jewish manuscript illumination"

In his contribution to the facsimile, "On the history of Jewish manuscript illustration", David Kaufmann nurtured a quasi-national, ethnic understanding of Jewish artistic practice. His arguments show that he accepted unquestioningly the nationalist paradigm of art history, albeit in the ethnic version then current in the Austro-Hungarian empire. But he rejects race as the basis for Jewish art. His essay pointedly avoids the racializing interpretations adopted by Schlosser. His text can be shown to adumbrate much of the later and even some of the current debates on Jewish manuscript illumination, such as that of the identity-Jewish or Christian-of the illuminators of Hebrew manuscripts. 30 Kaufmann's text introduced some enduring myths and metaphors. One example is the myth of the organic development of Hebrew manuscript illumination out of the work of the Torah scribe. Another, this time unexpected one, is the trope of mapping. From the very opening paragraph, Kaufmann employs the language of exploration, so evocative during the era of empires. He offers an excursion into "still uncharted territory", and a few sentences later he speaks ironically of a ')ourney to Nowhere".31 Why this preoccupation with the language of mapping and exploration? It mirrors 19th-century concerns with the 'mapping' of the new discipline of art history.32 Tropes of mapping also evoke the 'scramble for Mrica' and similar initiatives of the imperial age, with their supposed blank spots on maps waiting to be charted and civilized. In the specific context of AustroHungarian ethnicity conflicts, which were approaching their climax at the time, Kaufmann's use of mapping tropes also evokes anxieties

30 See for example Epstein (1997), and R. Suckale, "Uber den Anteil chrisdicher Maler an der Ausmalung hebraischer Handschriften der Gotik in Bayern", in Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in Bayern, eds. M. Treml and J. Kirmeier (Munchen: 1988) 123-34. It is perhaps not surprising that the intervention of Suckale, a non-Jewish German, should have provoked charges of anti-Semitism, given that he built his comparative method on criteria of 'quality' (the higher the quality, the more likely a Christian artist ... ). 31 Muller and Schlosser (1898) 255. 32 "Our whole science is still quite young. It is an empire, "vith whose conquest we have just begun to concern ourselves, whose valleys and forests we still have to clear, whose barren steppes we have yet to make arable." F. Kugler, Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte (Stuttgart: 1848) X. See Olin (1999) 23, and Nelson (1997).



about territory and ethnicity. Such anxieties were especially acute and paradoxical among the 'people without a land', the Jews. The desire for Jewish artifacts to be on the map, born out of a fear of their being classed as the nomadic non-art of the primitive, calls to mind Salli Kirschstein's fin-de-siecle project for a Jewish museum in Berlin. After his visit to the newly opened Imperial Museum of Ethnography (VO"lkerkunde) in Berlin, where he had admired the artifacts of all peoples ... except the Jews, he was inspired to envisage a Jewish museum in Berlin: Then and there arose the wish, no the will, that a museum of Jewish ethnography ['Volkskunde'] must be established ... in order to assure our place among the peoples of the world. 33

Kirschstein's wish for a place on the map is in tum deceptively reminiscent of Zionist positions at the time. But Kirschstein wanted to ensure a place on the map not through a state but through a museum situated in Berlin. His idea was an ethnographic, not an art museum, what's more. That means the place on the map is among the inferior races, the primitives, the foreign and exotic tribes. The writing of a Jewish art history was a form of mapping, a way of inscribing Jewishness on a hierarchically structured cultural map which excluded it a priori. By contrast, Kaufmann proclaims a quasi-national Jewish art history, one that forms part of Western artistic traditions. Just like national histories tended to do, so Kaufmann discusses the question of origins: where did the Jewish art of illumination come from? Here he picks up Schlosser's metaphor of the topsoil, and turns it on its head: The synagogue was far from impeding the spread of painting in manuscripts; on the contrary, it provided in a certain sense the topsoil ['Mutterboden'] most appropriate for the establishment and the furthering of this craft--in the institution of the guild of scribes which worked under the protection of religious law.~4

This inversion of Schlosser's metaphor of Christian soil and Jewish spirit is very revealing. For Kaufmann, it is the Synagogue (presumed

33 S. Kirschstein, Jfidische Graphiker aus der Zeit von 1625-1825 (Berlin: 1918) 2. Cited in]. Gutmann, "Is there a Jewish Art?", in Ike Visual Dimension: Aspects if Jewish Art ed. C. Moore (Boulder, CO: 1993) 5, and]. Gutmann, "The Kirschstein Museum of Berlin", Jewish Art 16/17 (1990-91) 172-76. 34 Muller and Schlosser (1898) 256.



in patristic and medieval anti-Jewish theology to be barren) that provides nourishment to art. Kaufmann sees the origins ofJewish manuscript illumination as flowing naturally from the traditional activity of the Hebrew scribes: it was "only one step from the calligraphic art to the neighboring field of painting". Kaufmann assumes a kind of natural artistic energy to have been pent up inside these scribes, to be "released in the first play of the art of drawing" in the margins of manuscripts. Being hemmed in by the strict prohibition against any ornamentation in their principal work, that of writing Torah scrolls, they would have, "when entrusted with the production of codices, naturally vented their sense of liberation in mad jumps and caprioles".35 These mad jumps and caprioles were the micrographic and other marginal decorations of Gothic manuscripts. What Kaufmann is outlining is an organicist conception of artistic development, so familiar from Romantic writers. At the same time, it implies a Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) critique: rabbinic prohibitions inhibit the natural artistic creativity of Jewish scribes, but cannot totally repress it. Thus the sophisticated micrographic artistry of the Masora is generated out of an "irrepressible urge", out of a drive flowing directly from the Jewish body. The Jewish body of this vision is masculine (no place here for the female scribes of the Middle Ages we know of) and full of healthy youthful energyhow different this body is from the diseased body of Schlosser's Galician paper-cutter, whose childhood lacks vigor because his body is burdened by his inherited medieval knowledge, which impedes the healthy growth of his limbs. But Schlosser and Kaufmann at least shared the notion of rabbinic knowledge as unhealthy for the body. In Kaufmann's scheme, the illustration of manuscripts is inevitable "once freedom had been achieved". (259) "Far from letting itself be dammed back by pious doubts, the image-craving art advanced from task to task." (267) Such progressive artistic enthusiasm was only interrupted by the catastrophes of persecution and expulsion. In his eulogy of Italy as the "promised land" of Hebrew manuscript illumination, it becomes particularly clear how Kaufmann's concept of the liberation of art from religious restriction and its development towards ever greater naturalism is influenced by Enlightenment positions. What he appreciates most about his Italian Mahzor (Pesaro, 35

Muller and Schlosser (1898) 257.



1481) is the "almost tangible reality" and its value for the study of the ritual and cultural history of the Jews of Italy.36 He praises the perfection of taste and technique, the "awakened naturalism", "which no longer contents itself with stylized imita!ions of the general type, but seeks to do justice to the character and expression of its model through loving immersion and individualizing effort". 37 By contrast, the unique flowering of Hebrew scribal art in the Baroque is something that he regards as a period of decadence. So the canon of Jewish art is made to converge with the universally recognized canon of European art, whose climax is Renaissance art. Once again, Jewish art has been created in the image of the master. In the second part of his essay Kaufmann focuses on the disputed identity of the medieval Jewish illuminator/artist: But this bibliographical survey lacks any cogency if we cannot refute with decisive reasons the objection that all of this Jewish manuscript illustration might be the work of Christian artists. 38

He implies that even the greatest artistic achievements are somehow devalued if executed by non:Jews. What exactly is it that Kaufmann is trying to disprove here? Specifically, it is the "contention that Jewish scribes resorted to the art of Christian illuminators", i.e. that the miniatures in Jewish manuscripts are not Jewish because their painters were not. 39 Clearly, this argument was made under the spell of 19th-century notions of artistic authorship. Yet the issue continues to be debated with some heat today; evidently, the history of art remains in some sense a history of artists. To make the existence of artful scribes among an artless people plausible, Kaufmann suggests that manuscript illumination was the result of a natural urge for fame on the part of the scribe: "Avidly, the Jewish scribes grasped the laurel offered them by manuscript painting. "40 Where Kaufmann

36 Kaufmann's own collection of manuscripts and Genizah fragments is now in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. For its contents, see M. Weisz, Katalog der hebriiischen Handschri.ften und Bucher in der Bibliothek des Prqfossors Dr. David Kaujinann (Frankfurt: 1906). 37 Miiller and Schlosser (1898) 271-2. 38 Miiller and Schlosser (1898) 295. 39 Miiller and Schlosser (1898) 296. This issue continues to arouse considerable conflict, interestingly once again pivoting around German:Jewish/Israeli-German politics. 4D Muller and Schlosser (1898) 295.



had no documentary evidence about the identity of 'artists', especially in the "promised land" of Italy, he speculated: for him, the allegedly well-known involvement of Jews in Italian Renaissance culture virtually guaranteed that the artists were Jews, all the more so in that Italian miniatures betray such an intimate knowledge ofJewish life and intellectual traditions. 41 In Germany, by contrast, Jewish artistic authorship is argued on the reverse grounds: conflict and separation, not integration, would have precluded the use of Christian illuminators: "The sharpening of confessional oppositions and their immeasurably increased tension after the persecutions of the Crusades and the horrors of the Black Death completely exclude the thought of Christian assistance with the decoration of Jewish manuscripts in German lands." (303) This total separation, however, raises the question of how Jewish illuminators were trained. Kaufmann concedes that they must have acquired their skills from Christian masters. So Jews and Christians were culturally sufficiently close for Jews to become imbued with Gothic artistic forms, but sufficiently distant not to allow actual collaboration. Jews had "contact with the art of their fatherland" (305), but not with its Christian inhabitants who crcatcd that art! Kaufmann makes no attempt to define any essence of Jewishness for the art of illumination across periods and geographic areas. Unlike Schlosser, Kaufmann is happy for Jewish artists to have followed the art of their fatherlands, and be united by their faith alone. While Schlosser was preoccupied with qucstions of race and ethnicity, Kaufmann thought that Judaism as a religious confession determined peoplehood, without recourse to concepts of race. In the atmosphere of the late Hapsburg empire, with its nationality / ethnicity conflicts, the trope of the 'artless Jew' took on an urgency for nationally minded Jews. At the fin-de-siecle, an "overcoming of 'sacrosanct ideals of art and conceptions of style' "42 seemed possible in the Vienna art scene, while an overcoming of nationalism seemed remote in the political arena. The Haggadah von Sarqjevo

41 On the myths ofJewish 'participation' in Renaissance culture, see Bonfil (1994), and specifically for the relevance of such myths to the interpretation of illuminated manuscripts, see E. Horowitz, "Giotto in Avignon, Adler in London, Panofsky in Princeton: on the Odyssey of an Illustrated Hebrew Manuscript from Italy and on its Meaning", Jewish Art, 19/20 (1993-4) 98-111. 42 Schorske (1981) 238, citing a letter by Wickhoff to Riegl. I am grateful to Michael Steinberg for pointing out the relevance of this work.



appeared at the peak of Austria's nationality crisis, when the Austrian government was riven by the conflicts which pitched German Austrians against Poles, Hungarians, Ruthenians, Slovaks and Czechs. 43 This nationality question provided the wider context for western Zionism, just as the rise of antisemitic politics contributed to its crystallization. 44 At this time, Austria's controversial minister of culture Otto von Hartel (he backed Klimt against the academic establishment) expressed in a public document his hopes that art could overcome ethnic conflict: Although every development is rooted in national soil, yet works of art speak a common language, and, entering into noble competition, lead to mutual understanding and reciprocal respect. 45

Von Hartel's Arts Council championed the Secession, which was modem and cosmopolitan, in the hope that it would act as a unifying cultural force to transcend and "weld together all the characteristics of our multitude of constituent peoples into a new and proud unity".46 Interestingly, the Secession was accused by the right-wing Deutsches Volksblatt of being jewish'Y But what of 'real' Jewish art? There was no question of its being rooted in a national soil, so how could it have any development at all? These were the assumptions with which Schlosser, Kaufmann and Buber grappled in their different ways. The struggle continued after World War I, unresolved.

Modernist Histories if Jewish Art: Expressionism and Iconography The issue of Jewish art remained a contentious one during the socalled 'Renaissance of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany', when a whole spate of books, articles, journal publications, museum initiatives 43 Schorske (1981) 236ff. At that time Vienna's parliament was paralyzed by this issue during a constitutional crisis leading in 1900 to the creation of the neoabsolutist Beamtenministerium (civil servant ministry). 44 For which see Schorske (1981) 116-180, with a detailed contextualization of Herzl's 'conversion'. 45 Schorske (1981) 237. Von Hartel was also a classical scholar, and co-editor with the art historian Wickhoff of the Vienna Genesis three years before the Haggadah von Sarajevo was published; this study of the ground-breaking nature of the Vienna Genesis, an early Christian illuminated manuscript previously despised as a 'decadent' work of late antiquity, redeemed it as the ancestor of Medieval Bible illustration: Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhiichsten Kaiserhauses, Beilage zum 15. und 16. Band (1895); see Schorske (1981) 238. 46 Schorske (1981) 237. 47 Schorske (1981) 239-40.



and exhibitions engaged with Jewish artistic practice. 48 I will discuss only a few examples. In 1929, the Judisches Lexicon published in its third volume the entry "Kunst, jiidische". Written by the art critic Kurt Frey, the essay opens with a remarkable disclaimer, characterizing Jewish art by what it lacks vis-a-vis other national arts (the control group is so obviously national that Frey does not deem it necessary to specifY as much): To speak of Jev.,jsh art in the same sense as of any other art is not possible in any simple way. Three things are lacking in it: ... the explicit, specifically Jewish character; Jewish art has at all times used the forms and motifs of its 'host peoples'. Secondly, ... the inner coherence over great spans of time; and thirdly, the extraordinary achievement of Genius, be it of individual artists or of an entire period. 49

The first deficiency is the absence of a national style, leading to formal dependence on 'host peoples' (a bio-sociological term coined by Georg Simmel at the beginning of the 20th century). The second deficiency is closely related to the first: Jewish art has no identifiable unchanging essence. Frey here touches on one of the great unacknowledged contradictions of national art historiography: how to demonstrate an essential coherence of a national art over many centuries while tracing its stylistic progress. The contradiction consists in the incompatibility between the progressing Zeitgeist and the eternal Volksgeist. And the third deficiency addresses the question of canonicity: who are the great masters of that autonomous realm called art? Frey offers two explanations for these three lacks: firstly, the essential and inherent anti-Hellenism of Judaism; secondly, the political and sociological oppression suffered by the Jews in history. He implicitly rejects common antisemitic explanations, such as the innate Jewish ineptitude for the visual arts, Jewish lack of spirituality, or Jewish racial inferiority. Ernst Cohn-Wiener's popular book Jewish Art (Die Judische Kunst) was published in Berlin in 1929. 50 Writing under the powerful influence of formalist art histories, Cohn-Wiener in his introduction tries to explain why there is "no Jewish style":

See Brenner (1996). Brenner's book touches on visual art only briefly. K. Frey, "Kunst, jiiclische", }iidisches Lexicon vol. 3, 934-38 (934); see Bland (2000) 30-2. 50 Ernst Cohn-Wiener (1882-1941), art historian, taught at the Humboldt Academy ;8




But like all art, Jewish art was the work of its own Jewish soul. Only in the early centuries after the loss of independence did Israel's fate allow it freedom and joy of life. Then began an ever-increasing pressure, which brought forth fear and a lack of inner freedom. Free creativity, which struggles with imagination to the utmost, could not thrive in the ghetto. Man began to brood. We can trace the narrowing of the circle of creativity from century to century. Only now that the external fetters have fallen away have these inner fetters been loosened. And this explains what distinguishes Jewish art, to its disadvantage, from that of other peoples: in its formal foundations, in its style, it is dependent, just like the people itself. It does not possess absolute independence. We expect of a people's art that it be the expression of a particular specificity ['Eigenart'], that it have its own style. Thus German, Netherlandish, Italian art form discrete units ['geschlossene Einheiten'], which differ from each other to the point of complete opposition. And it makes no sense to blindfold one's eyes here and ignore the fact that in this sense there is indeed no Jewish art. Just like Frey, Cohn-Wiener accepts the axiom of independent national artistic styles-the manifestation of Volksgeist in art. Political ideologies of cultural autarchy based on (or underlying?) national sovereignty serve to sharpen cultural and artistic differences into violent, quasi-military metaphors of conflict and enmity. Thus the absence of a Jewish national style becomes a deplorable 'fact'. It was of course unthinkable for Cohn-Wiener to suggest that, prior to the 19th century, any national style, not just a Jewish style', would have been an anachronism; such a critique would have amounted to questioning the concept of Volksgeist. Cohn-Wiener resorts, perhaps unwittingly, to the metaphor of the blindfold, traditionally associated with Jewish blindness, the blindness of Synagoga who does not 'see' Christ. But Jewish blindness' does not lead to Jewish artlessness. Instead, several hermeneutic moves are interlinked to yield a rudimentary theory of double consciousness or multivocality based on a dialectic between borrowed style (German, French, Italian etc.) and Jewish content. According to Cohn-Wiener, this stylistic or formal dependence is due to political subjection: Jews had no state, they were an oppressed minority, which is why they could not have a national style. It looks telling that the opening image in Cohn-Wiener's introduction is Samuel Hirszenberg's Goluss (galut, Exile; formerly in the Jewish and the Jiidische Volkshochschule in Berlin. His area of specialization was 'Oriental' art (involving research expeditions to Russia and Turkey in the mid-I 920s); see Encyclopaedia Judaica (1970) vol. 3, 595.



Museum Berlin, present whereabouts unknown), a gigantic canvass depicting an uprooted Eastern European shtetl population wandering through the snow. There remains a curious contradiction: the ghetto period bred oppression, and the result of socio-political dependence was formal dependence. But the ghetto period also bred Jewish isolation, i.e. the very opposite of assimilation/ acculturation; and isolation should have fostered formal independence. Yet, Cohn-Wiener sees the style adopted by Jewish artists during this dark period as imitative, i.e. lacking in authenticity.51 Then follows an apologia for Jewish aniconic sensibility. What may appear as "a permanent assimilationism, a ... lack of personality", is in reality the flipside of an "innate Jewish sensibility", whieh is predicated on a preference for the word over the image: For the Jew it is important to have not an independent style in his artworks, but an independent content: the content of his religion ... For the Jewish religion, form is only a hieroglyph for the spirituality which is to be spoken by it. And when one occupies oneself vvith Jewish art, it would appear sometimes that the discipline of art history overvalues form to the exclusion of content .... Israel was unquestionably a thinking, not a visually creative people, was more gifted in literature than in art. 52

Following Protestant Kantian aesthetics, which elevated the spirituality of poetry over the physicality of the visual arts, and its Judaic appropriation by, amongst others, Heinrich Graetz ("Paganism sees its god, Judaism hears him"), the Jewish 'Ohrenmensch' is set above the Greco-Roman, i.e. Pagan 'Augenmensch'. The content of a work of art springs not from the base senses but from the lofty Jewish spirit. 53 The link between political bondage and aesthetic dependence is elaborated in the second part of the book, titled (with deliberate Yiddishism) "Goluss und Ghetto"-Exile and ghetto. But here CohnWiener has to account for such amazing phenomena as the illuminated manuscripts of Christian Spain. How could such flowering have occurred in the midst of 'Goluss und Ghetto'? The answer is that the 'Golden Age' of Spanish Jewry under Islam had generated an energy which lasted beyond the end of Islamic domination in Spain: 51 For an even more extreme formulation, on the part of a Jewish scholar, of Jewish 'slavish imitation' of Christian 'ornament', see J. Reider, "Non:Jewish Motives in the Ornament of Early Hebrew Books", Studies in Jewish Bibliography and Related Subjects in Memory if Abraham Solomon Freidus (New York: 1929) 150-159. 52 Cohn-Wiener (1929) 10. 53 This problematic has been comprehensively analysed by Bland (2000) 13-36.



For even in Spain's Christian world, Jews retained for another two centuries the respect which they had enjoyed among Muslims as scientists, and hence the contact which they had had with the artistically most cultured circles of that country.54 Cohn-Wiener's formal appraisal of the Iberian Hebrew manuscripts is thoroughly grounded in the aesthetics of German Expressionism: expression (Ausdruck) is the highest value, followed by personal experience (Erlebnis) and sense impression (sinnlicher Eindruck). He finds that expression is foremost in the art of the Hebrew book, when he recalls David Kaufmann's by then almost canonical thesis of the natural evolution from script to miniature: The book is all spirit. The letters are form and meaning in one. And because they are so ornamental, so expressive in form, writing has been an esteemed art which made the scribe into an artist among all the oriental peoples and thus also in Israel ... The Jewish scribes [of the Middle Ages] developed the Hebrew script to an expressivity which was both completely permissible by the religion and at the same time truly artistic. It was a matter of course that they progressed to book illustration. The series of medieval Jewish illustrated manuscripts ['Bilderhandschriften'] is truly imposing. It is as if all artistic drive of the nation had fled into it.» Once again we encounter the notion of a national artistic drive or will which is repressed (by Gentile persecution as well as by the repressive Jewish religion itself) but finds refuge in the permitted art of the book. Once again the scribe becomes the vessel of this repressed artistic drive. Given the prime value of expressivity, the Golden Haggadah, notwithstanding-or rather because of-its courtly perfection, cannot satisfy the modernist critic: "We, who seek in the image the expression of the event, find all of this somewhat stilted." Precisely because of this courtly perfection, Cohn-Wiener declares the Golden Haggadah to be a Christian product. He prefers to find "characteristic coarseness" in Hebrew manuscripts. The 'characteristic' is a sign of individualism, the great romantic virtue: The cultivated achievement of elegance was valued so little in Jewish illustrated manuscripts, that their coarseness can be seen as their chief characteristic. This is true of most countries, Germany as much as Spain. The Jew, who during the Middle Ages shows no particular



Cohn-Wiener (1929) 150. Cohn-Wiener (1929) 143.



interest for his environment, but lives in the world of his religion and his books, has created in them distinctly realistic and energetic images, and thus stands apart within the Christian art of his time. 56

Here finally Cohn-Wiener has discovered the coveted independence, explicable through the Jews' Sonderstellung, their isolated position. This means that Jewish artists are influenced by their non-Jewish contemporaries only superficially, but not in the essence of their art. They copy the Gothic style but "have no access to the mystical feelings of the Gothic". The Jewish draftsman is subject to the style of his time and the country in which he works, but only in the most general way. He is part of the stylistic environment whose forms surround him, but is autonomous in the subtler contents. These contents are completely different from those of Christian art.57

Metaphors of hegemony are conspicuous In this short passage: the Jewish artist is 'subject' and 'surrounded', but nevertheless autonomous. Cohn-Wiener has found a way to unmask apparent Jewish stylistic dependence as a mere surface phenomenon, behind which a deep essential Jewish individuality remains intact and informs all Jewish artistic practice at a deep level. The "innate Jewish individualism" finds expression for example in representations of genre scenes. Thus the scene of the distribution of Matzah in a Castilian Haggadah (Hispano-Moresque Haggadah, London BL Or 2737), figured in continuous narration, greatly impresses the author with its "almost cinematic and yet totally clear sequence of movements". (157) The dialectical relationship between Jewish and non-Jewish art is further explored in the contrast between Christian monastic withdrawal and Jewish 'realism': Christian book art was fundamentally monastic .... All of it remained outside the sphere of real life. That is precisely where the Jewish illumination lives. 58

That is why the Haggadah, "the Jewish illuminated book par excellence", contains genre scenes representing the rites and customs of the Passover, including depictions of the Jewish community itself. According to Cohn-Wiener, this again is a Jewish characteristic, 56 57


Cohn-Wiener (1929) 152. Cohn-Wiener (1929) 153. Cohn-Wiener (1929) 153.



because Jewish worship, unlike its hierarchic Christian counterpart, involves the entire community. Thus the alleged Jewish realism is explained directly out of the religious and social differences between Jewry and Christianity. 59 Iconographic realism and stylistic coarseness are two aspects of the same phenomenon. The definition of these twin characteristics allows Cohn-Wiener to emphasize the inner truth and drama of the narrative scenes of the Haggadot, as against the formal perfection and preciousness of Christian book illumination. When comparing Noah's ark in the Haggadah of Sarajevo with the same scene in the splendidly refined Psalter of Saint Louis (the latter at least two generations earlier than the former, and from a different country!), he finds that: "To us moderns, who have experienced expressionism, this coarse forcefulness [in the Haggadah of Sarajevo] speaks more directly than courtly refined painting ['hofische Feinmalerei']". (166) Undoubtedly, some of Cohn-Wiener's judgments are prompted by gross misdating of manuscripts. The Haggadot are dated much too early: the 14th-century Hispano-Moresque Haggadah with its genre scenes is dated in Cohn-Wiener's book to ca. 1200, the mid-14th-century Rylands Haggadah to the 13th century. Equally, the price of his expressionist-realist analysis is the elevation of the Haggadot owned by a tiny wealthy elite to "the Jewish illuminated book par excellence". Cohn-Wiener privileges the narrative element, as a vessel for expression, over the 'decorative', a term that was out of favor in an expressionist aesthetic. Only the most extreme selectivity allows CohnWiener to uphold his modernist concept of medieval Jewish art. My last case study concerns the early works of art historian Rachel Wischnitzer, between 1922 and 1935. From 1922 to 1924, she was the co-publisher, with her husband the social historian Mark Wischnitzer, of the Berlin cultural journal RimonlMilgroim, printed in separate Hebrew and Yiddish series. In this journal, we find an exciting mixture of contemporary and traditional Jewish art, and an expressionist modernist appreciation of medieval manuscripts, similar to CohnWiener's.60 Visually, the journal's hallmark was the combination of

59 On the politics of realism as an art historical term, see L. Nochlin, Realism (Harmondsworth: 1971). 60 It has been described by Brenner (1996) 194 as "the most beautiful Yiddish art journal ever to appear"; See R. Wischnitzer, "From my archives", Journal i!I Jewish Art 6 (1979) 6-15.



'primitive' or folk and avantgarde art: it featured Chagall, Ryback, Lissitzky and Lesser Ury alongside papercuts, ritual objects and medieval manuscripts. The first volume opened with Rachel Wischnitzer's essay "Modern Art and Us", in which miniatures from a medieval Sephardi Haggadah are juxtaposed to a text about Impressionism, Cubism and Expressionism. The medieval miniature is the Jewish counterpart of the 'primitive' art so valued by Expressionist artists and collectors. By implication, we are made to see the expressive qualities of the medieval miniature (Fig. 2). Throughout, modernist design and glimpses of 'authentic' or folk Jewish art evoke a sense of vigorous peoplehood, coupled with universalistic optimism. A few years later, in 1930, Rachel Wischnitzer contributed to the Festschrift for Simon Dubnow a six-page essay titled "Historiography of Jewish Art: a Bibliographic Sketch".6! In this piece, she traced a genealogy for herself and the historians and critics of Jewish art of her own generation, who were working mostly outside the arena of German academic life. She is able to reconstruct an origin for her discipline that runs roughly parallel with mainstream art history. Her Jewish 'chain of tradition' begins with a study of medieval Hebrew illuminated manuscripts by the Rostock Orientalist Olaf Tychsen: "About the Biblical Manuscripts which are Decorated with Artistically Written Marginal Figures", an essay published in 1778 about the Massorah figurata, i.e. micrography.52 It is probably not a coincidence that Tychsen was a contemporary of the founding figure of art history, Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Wischnitzer goes on to list the early paleography handbooks that included illuminated Hebrew manuscripts, and the great Hebrew cataloguing projects of the 1870s and '80s in Paris, Munich, Berlin, London, Oxford, and St. Petersburg. In this way, she arrives very quickly at the generation preceding her own. She registers the following methodologies: the bibliographic (a continuation of bible study and the cataloguing projects), the archaeological/ ethnographic, and finally the decorative arts approach. She finds that Jewish artifacts other than books and manuscripts became an object Wischnitzcr-Bcmstcin (1930). o. Tychsen, "Von den mit kunstlich geschriebenen Randfiguren gezierten hebraischen biblischen Handschriften", Repertorium .fur Biblische und Morgenliindische Litteratur 2 (1778) 124-130, and idem, "Von den Ursachen der verschiedenen Farbe der Dinte [sic!] in den Konsonanten, Punkten, Massora etc. der bibl. hebr. Handschriften", ibid. 140-151. My thanks to Heike Trager, Universitatsbibliothek Rostock, for copies of these rare items. 61




of study only at the fin-de-siecle. Throughout the brief essay Wischnitzer critical of her predecessors' and contemporaries' methods:


With the exception of the Haggadah if Sarajevo, the publications listed here do not present systematic art historical analyses. They limit themselves largely to reproducing the material and to interpreting the content of the images. Even though the significance of a compilation of Jewish iconography must not be underestimated, nevertheless the 'how, the 'from where', the 'when' and the 'why' are as important for research as the content of a representation. . . . In conclusion we can say that research in the field of Jewish artistic activity is progressing only slowly.... The work of those who occupy themselves with Jewish artistic activity is still developing more in breadth than in depth. The genre of the coffee table book with little text predominates, . . . as does the compilatory handbook of Jewish art history, which, due to a lack of basic research, lines up the material together additively and loosely, without researching any of its context. 63 Her hesitant evaluation of iconography is surprising, given her own substantial body of work on Jewish iconography at later stages of her career. We may perhaps detect here a hidden polemic against Cohn-Wiener's privileging of content over style. A few years later, in 1935, Rachel Wischnitzer wrote the entries "Kunst" and 'Judische Kunstler" for the monumental unfinished Encyclopaedia Judaica's tenth volume. 64 From her pan:Judaic perspective, Jewish art exhibits the very coherence across time which had eluded Frey in his own earlier encyclopaedia entry. This coherence is found at the level of iconography. She describes a timeless symbolic world predicated on the centrality of certain specific Jewish religious symbols. Her prime example are the Sanctuary vessels, depictions of which she traces from ancient gold glass and synagogue mosaics to medieval illuminated bibles. This historical continuity allows her to engage with and complement Cohn-Wiener's heavy emphasis on the narrative art of Haggadah illumination: In Spain the thematic cycles and the formal style, especially of the Haggadah, were borrowed from Christian bible illustration, but everything was adapted for the specific purpose. The sparse bible decorations, however, follow largely the older [i.e. Islamic and ancient] tradition. 65

63 64 65

Wischnitzer-Bernstein (1930) 78, 81. Encyclopaedia Judaica (Berlin: 1935) vol. 10, 495ff. Ibid. 496.



Here Wischnitzer introduces the concept of adaptation as a process of appropriation. Adaptation is a process that incorporates the foreign or borrowed elements into a specifically Jewish world of symbolic meanings. These Jewish symbolic meanings are reflections of traditionalJewish texts. Her explication of the origins ofJewish artistic practice is indebted to David Kaufmann's evolutionary myth of the artful scribe: In the Middle Ages we find the first Jewish artists-among the manuscript painters. It was the so-called Law scribes ['Gesetzesschreiber', i.e. Torah scribes] who exercised their art in marginal drawings and thereby developed great artistry and rich imagination. 66 Published .in the same year 1935, Rachel Wischnitzer's Gestalten und ~mbole der Jiidifchen Kunst (Figures and ~mbols ifJew~h Art) was probably the first (and only) attempt to develop a comprehensive iconography of Jewish art. 67 The author defines the aim of this book as follows: The aim of this text is to uncover the buried contents of Jewish art, to interpret its signs and figures, to present preliminary work towards a history of types and motifs of Jewish art ... . . . There are ideograms and symbols ['Ideogramme und Sinnbilder'] which are marked by the Jewish spirit. An iconography of Jewish art seems to us to be quite justified. 68 The book returns to the Jewish symbolic world adumbrated in the Encyclopaedia Judaica entry cited above. Jewish symbols are made up of 'signs' taken from nature (especially animals or plants). While nature provides symbols to all cultures, Jews use them from a 'Jewish standpoint"; this standpoint imbues natural symbols with a Jewish spirit. The sources of this 'standpoint' are the traditional texts of Judaism. Accordingly, Wischnitzer in this book draws her interpretations of traditional motifs from the body of traditional texts, especially Midrash and rabbinic Biblical exegesis. In good Warburgian fashion, she also traces iconographic motifs to ancient Mediterranean and Asian. sources, such as the Physiologus.69

Ibid. 498. Wischnitzer (1935) was published by Siegried Schocken. According to its preface, the book was based on a workshop taught at the Jiidisches Lehrhaus in Berlin in the winter term 1934-5. Presumably, this is the same institution as the Preie Jiidische Volkshochschule. On the Lehrhaus movement see Brenner (1996) 90-93. 68 Wischnitzer (1935) VII. 69 In this, she may have followed Z. Ameisenowa, for example "Bestiarius w 66




Wischnitzer's book is organized according to religious and anthropological categories: Divine Revelation, Kingship, The Teaching (Torah), Priesthood, Festival and Custom, Eschatology, Time and World. This structure betrays the influence of religious anthropology70 and of Jewish theological thought in Germany. 71 Particularly conspicuous is the influence of Buber and Rosenzweig, and of Rosenzweig's Lehrhaus movement.72 Also traceable is the inspiration taken from contemporary concepts of iconography and from work on Jewish legends and mysticism. 73 This was probably the first time that the newly discovered thirdcentury synagogue of Dura Europos was incorporated into a broader study of Jewish art. H For Wischnitzer, as for many scholars after her, the fresco cycle in this building formed a bridge between antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Dura Europos allowed the tracing of core Jewish iconographic motifs back to the biblical period and the Jews' 'homeland'. This monument underpinned Wischnitzer's construction of a homogenous and timeless iconography of Judaism. The Judaism we encounter in this book is ahistorical and normative:

Biblji Hebraijskiej XIIIgo wieku", Miesiecznik :jJdowski (1933), and "The, Tree of life in Jewish Iconography", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 2 (1938/9) 326-45. The links between Wischnitzer and the Warburg 'school' would deserve a separate study, 70 For example, her discussion of the holy and unholy mountain, a dualism reminiscent of Frazer's approach in The Golden Bough. 71 See especially the systematic thought of Leo Baeck, Das Wesen des Judentums [7he Essence of Judaism] (Berlin: 1905), and Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig's work. A. von Harnack's germanocentric and antisemitic Das Wesen des Christentums: sechzehn Vorlesungen vor Studierenden aller Facultiiten im Wintersemester 1899/1900 an der Universitiit Berlin gehalten (Leipzig: 1900) sparked, between 1902 and 1907, a whole spate of systematic apologetic works on Judaism's essence on the part of Jewish writers, mainly associated with the Reform movement. 1. Jelski 1902, S. Mandel 1904, D. Leimdoerfcr 1905, Leo Baeck 1905, J. Fromer 1905 and I. Goldschmidt 1907 all tided their ripostes the Essence of Judaism. See F. Niewohner, "Das Halbe und das Ganze: Adolf von Harnack tiber das Wesen des Judentums", FranlifUrter Allgemeine Zeitung, no. 45 (23.2.2000) N5; C. Wiese, Wissenschq.fl des Judentums und protestantische 7heologie im wilhelminischen Deutschland: ein Schrei ins Leere? (Ttibingen: 1999); U. Tal, "Die Polemik zu Anfang des zwanzigstenJahrhunderts tiber das Wesen des Judentums nach jtidischen und christlichen Quellen", in W.E. Mosse, Juden im Wilhelminischen Deutschland, 1890-1914: ein Sammelband (Schriflenreihe wissenschq.fllicher Abhandlungen des Leo-Baeck-Instituts 33) (Ttibingen: 1976); Brenner (1996). 72 This is especially true for the expressionistically inflected language of the book. 73 See L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 7 vols. (Philadelphia: 1909-38) and M. Bin Gorion, Die Sagen der Juden (Berlin: 1913), as well as G. Scholem's works on Kabbalah. 74 See H. Kessler and K. Weitzmann, the $ynagogue of Dura Europos (Baltimore: 1991).



the sources consulted by Wischnitzer are part of the high culture of canonical rabbinic writing, not the 'low' culture of folklore, though the consideration of the life cycle shows some awareness of the contemporary growth of Jewish folklore. 75 The Judaism of Gestalten und Symbole is monolithic: unlike the fragmented spectrum of Jewish religious denominations and political factions of \Vischnitzer's own time, it is unified and at peace. The most striking feature of the book, especially in the wake of the exciting modernist collage of Rimonl Milgroim, is its total exclusion of modernism. This absence is perhaps the result of Wischnitzer's consistent effort at constructing a "continuity of symbols", reaching back to the biblical period. The exclusion of modernism is particularly clear in the choice of illustrations. The oldest object included in the book's illustrations is an Israelite-period ivory from Samaria; the most recent illustrations are of a series of religious etchings by Josef Herz (1826) and of an 1832 tombstone-both of the latter illustrate (normative religious) tradition. We are thus faced, in one of the capitals of modernism, with an entirely pre-modern (or perhaps even anti-modern) narrative. This late document of "the Renaissance of Jewish culture in Weimar Germany" is seriously at variance with the earlier, fin-de-siecle Jewish Renaissance inaugurated by Buber, which had been so intimately connected with modernism. Gestalten und Symbole is in my view colored by the traditionalist and authenticist aspects of the expressionist aesthetic, with its paradoxical modernist rejection of modernity. Wischnitzer bases her book on a scholarly recovery of traditional cultural texts and practices; until a short time previously, this recovery had been allied to Jewish modernism. Now the recovery is clearly set off against modernity, which appears somehow tainted through acculturation to mainstream 'un-Jewish' culture. For a conflicted group-identity shaken and sharpened by modernity, the invention of Jewish art was an exhilarating process. But to return to questions posed at the beginning: how does this invention of Jewish art relate to the mechanisms of exclusion operating in the n I am thinking here particularly of Anski's work in the Pale of Settlement during and after WWI, and that of YIVO in Vilnius with which Wischnitzer had connections through her husband. On the history of Jewish folklore see Y. Zerubavel ed., Continuity and Change in Contemporary Jewish Folklore (New York: 1990), D. Noy, "Eighty Years of Jewish Folkloristics: achievements and tasks", in F. Talmage ed., Studies in Jewifh Folklore, (Cambridge: 1980) 1-12, E. Yassif, "Folklore", in G. Abramson, The Blackwell Companion to Jewish Culture (Oxford: 1989) 233-7.



assumptions of (general) art history? Far from challenging those mechanisms, the disciplinary formation of Jewish art history has, actually tended to reinforce them. The insistence that there is such a thing as Jewish art and the writing of its history have left the 'map of art history' intact-add Jewish art and stir ... By insisting on a category jewish art' to parallel other national arts, Jewish art historians have left the nationalist paradigm of art history untouched. By protesting the spirituality/aniconism of Jewish art, the inventors of Jewish art have implicitly and unwittingly confirmed the figure of 'the Jew' as excessive Oriental, quintessential capitalist and Pharisaic literalist (why else protest so loudly?). By subverting the canon, even with a counter-canon (Masterpieces if Jewish Art, perhaps?), they succeeded only in confirming the canon. A historiographic reading enables us to see what the origins of some of the theoretical positions, still current in the study of Jewish art were.

Bibliograplry Encyclopaedia Judaica (1970) (Jerusalem: 1970). - - (1935) (Berlin: 1935). Judisches Lexicon (1929) (Berlin: 1929). Biddick, K. (1996) "Paper Jews: Inscription/Ethnicity/Ethnography", Art Bulletin 78/4 (1996) 594-99.

Bilsky, E. (1999) Berlin Metropolis: Jews and the New Culture, 1870-1918 (Berkeley: 1999). Bland, K. (1999) "Anti-Semitism and Aniconism: The Germanophone Requiem for Jewish Visual Art", in Soussloff (1999) 41-66. - - (2000) The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials q[ the Visual (Princeton: 2000). Bonfil, R. (1994) Jewish Lift in Renaissance Italy (Berkeley: 1994). Boyarin, J. (1992) Storm from Paradise: The Politics WJewish Memory (Minneapolis: 1992). Brenner, M. (1996) The Renaissance wJewish Culture in Weimar Germany (New Haven: 1996). Cohen, R. (1998) Jewish Icons: Art and Sociery in Modern Europe (Berkeley: 1998). Cohn-Wiener, E. (1929) Die Judische Kunst (Berlin: 1929). Epstein, M.M. (1997) Dreams WSubversion in MedievalJewish Art and Literature (University Park, PA: 1997). Garb, T. and Nochlin, L. eds., The Jew in the Text: Modemiry and the Construction W Identiry (London: 1995). Gilman, S. (1991) The Jew's Body (New York/London: 1991). Kaufmann, D. (1898) "Zur Geschichte der jiidischen Handschriftenillustrationen", in Miiller and Schlosser (1898) 253-311. , Mirzoeff, N. (2000) Diaspora and V1SUll1 Culture: Representing Africans and Jews (London/New York: 2000). Miiller, D.H. and Schlosser, J. von (1898) Die Haggadah von Sarajevo: eine spanischjudische Bilderhandschrifl des Mittelalters, nebst einem Anhange von Prqf. Dr. David Kaufmann in Budapest (Wien: 1898) 2 vols.



Nelson, R.S. (1997) "The map of art history", Art Bulletin 79 (1997) 28-40. Olender, M. (1992) Languages qf Paradise: Race, Religion and Philology in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, Mass.!London: 1992) (lLs Langues du Paradis: Aryens et Semites-un couple providentiel, Paris: 1989). Olin, M. (1999) "From Bezal'el to Max Liebermann: Jewish Art in NineteenthCentury Art-Historical Texts", in Soussloff (1999) 19-40. Schorske, C. (1981) Fin-de-Siecle Vienna (New York: 1981). Soussloff, C. (1999) Jewish Identiry in Modern Art History (Berkeley: 1999). Stenographisches Protokoll der Verhandlungen des V. Zionisten-Congresses in Basel (Wien: 190 I) 151-170. Steyn, J. (1999) TIe Jew: Assumptions qf Identiry (London: 1999). Wi schnitzer, R. (1935) Gestalten und Symbole der judischen Kunst (Berlin: 1935). Wischnitzer-Bernstein, R. (1930), 'Judische Kunstgcschichtsschreibung: Eine Bibliographische Skizze", in zu Simon Dubnows siebzigstem Geburtstag, eds. 1. Elbogen, J. Meisl, M. Wischnitzer (Berlin: 1930) 76-81.

Figures 1. The mark of Semitic artistic stagnation: papercut Mizrach bought by Schlosser in Galicia. Paper and paint, late 19th century. After Muller/Schlosser, Haggadah von Sarq.jevo, 1898, p. 250 fig. 10. 2. Pan:Jewish modernist Medievalism: Rimon/ Milgroim vol. I, 1923, p. 2.


In creating his learned, engaging and often disturbing Ficciones, jorge Luis Borges explored dilemmas, both existential and exegetical, through the eyes and actions of his protagonists. Pierre Menard, the eponymous hero of "Pierre Menard, the Author of Don Qyixote," (Ficciones, 1962), sets out, like the Knight himself, upon a quest. In Menard's case, the object of the quest is to produce a work which would, in all its details, "coincide-word for word and line for line-" with Cervantes' Don Qyixote. Yet this work of 'coincidence' must be neither a copy, nor a transcription, nor, obviously, a new or different version of the original novel. After giving account of the protagonist's considerable labors, the tale ends with a passage from Menard printed alongside the same passage from Cervantes. Needless to say, the two passages "coincide word for word and line for line." Borges, acting as literary critic, comments that although the two passages are verbally identical, Menard's version is, "almost infinitely richer." This is more than playful cleverness on Borges' part. He shows us how cunning language can be as it is used and reused in different contexts. What one assumed were the exact same words take on different meanings in the presence of new and different friends and neighbors. It is easy to see how Borges' paradox participates in the constellation of issues raised by Benjamin's inquiry into "the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction," or by the art of Cindy Sherman and Sherrie Levine. But because we are used to such examples emerging from the rather rarefied world of critical theory and conceptual art, we often overlook a primary example of 'coincidence' in a more prosaic context. A coincidence no less striking than that depicted by Borges occurs each time one uses the terms 'Old Testament' and 'New Testament,' when one implies the synonymity of the Hebrew Scriptures with the 'Old Testament,' or when one describes the Hebrew Scriptures as the shared heritage of jews and Christians.



It is, in fact, commonplace to assume that Jews and Christians share the 'Old Testament,' that they have 'the same' Genesis 'the same' Exodus, 'the same' Isaiah. But it should be obvious to any astute critic that this assumption is marred at best by the fact that the Hebrew Scriptures appear as the Old Testament minimally in tertiary translation. Furthermore, the rearrangement of the books in the canon is the result of unsubtle theological and political intent. The early Christian intellectual community in the Church rearranged the threefold division of the whole of the Hebrew Bible from Torah, Prophets and Writings (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim = TaNaKh) to Torah, Writings and Prophets (OT), in order to advance the new message of the Church. As a result of this switch in the order of the divisions of the T aNaKh, the vade mecum of the Hebrew Scriptures, Cyrus' stirring and hopeful declaration in the final verses of the book of Chronicles-that the Jewish exiles in Babylonia might, after long exile, return to their land and rebuild their Temple-is literally buried beneath a mountain of text. It is no longer the poignant, evocative harbinger of ultimate redemption that it was for Jews. It loses its place as the crowning moment of homecoming in the Jewish odyssey of exile and return since Abraham was told to leave his country and his homeland. The rousing last words of the bible for the Jews are the following: Thus said Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth has the Lord God of heaven given me; and he has charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!

These words, which served as the rallying cry for Jewish exiles throughout the centuries, are completely muffled and lost somewhere in the middle of what now has become the 'Old Testament.' Relegated to languish among the 'historical books,' Chronicles, from first to last verse, becomes, to the popular Christian mind, a part of the Old Testament rivaling only the 'begats' of Genesis for the soporific quality of its utterly forgettable narratives. Since the Prophets now end the Old Testament, the optimistic and positive words of Cyrus are replaced with Malachi's threat of a curse: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord; And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse.



This also serves as the entree into the typological connection of Elijah with John the Baptist in Matthew, a reading which is the locus classicus of what Paul Van Buren has described as the concerted effort by Christians to "read other people's mail" as if it was their own.' Still, even if the reordering of the books engenders a divergence between the character and message of the original Hebrew Scriptures and their reworking as the 'Old Testament,' one might argue that the actual words of the text as appropriated by Christians in the Old Testament are identical with those in the Jewish original. This is a fallacy. Whenever TaNaKh is reproduced as Old Testament relative to the New Testament of the Gospels, it loses its autonomy and is transformed into a book of preliminary dramas that can only be fully understood, and prophetic promises that can only be fulfilled in the Christian community and in the life of the Christian savior. For instance, everyone who is literate in Western culture (or at least everyone who has heard Handel's Messiah), knows to whom the famous verse in Isaiah (7: 14) refers: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and she shall call his name Emmanuel." Its futuretense reference to an unspecified virgin conceiving make this a 'prophecy' (for most Christians), that the son to be born must be inevitably be Jesus-synonymous, as everyone who has ever listened to a Christmas carol knows-with Emmanuel (see Matthew 1:23). But the author of Isaiah had not heard Handel, he had not listened to Christmas carols. In fact, he was immersed in a context that is all too easily forgotten, particularly after the verse was 'cut and pasted' into Matthew's gospel as a prophecy or prediction of the advent of Jesus. Here is the verse as it appears in the Hebrew Bible, the T aNaKh: "Look, the young woman is with child and about to give birth to a son. Let her name him Immanu-el ('God-withus')." This message is given as a sign to Ahaz, the reigning King of Judah that he should not be afraid of a military coalition between Syria and Northern Israel that threatens him and his fellow Judaeans. The king's attention is directed to his pregnant wife, and he is told that before his as yet unborn child "knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good," the land before whose two kings he is in dread will be deserted (7: 16). If the King's wife is now pregnant, and one assumes that a child achieves the age of reason at around five or so, (though your mileage may vary), the prophet is telling


Van Buren (1990).



the king that it is not too long before his enemies will be vanquished. It may be longer than he might have hoped, but he certainly shouldn't despair. Isaiah is doing what prophets in the Hebrew bible are wont to do, not so much predicting some as yet unfulfilled future as holding forth a message of hope in a specific historical context. 2 But in spite of this watertight contextuality, Isaiah's words of comfort, as they appeared in most Old Testament versions until very recently, and still appear in the Revised Standard Version, make it absolutely 'clear' that the prophecy refers to none other than Jesus. The post-facto construction of this verse, based on the typological use in Matthew 1:23, prepares us for the 'fact' that Jesus is its subject. It seems to trouble no one that the name to be given the child, 'Emmanuel', is not the name jesus', even in the original Hebrew, and that the following verses refer to two kings who have nothing to do with the story of Jesus. By reading the Jewish prophets as if their message was predictive rather than exhortative, the gospel writers invent-and the earliest Christian thinkers advance-the Christological ideas which become a fixture of Western culture, and thus almost self-evident to us. Virtually no one who has grown up in a society where the version of the Hebrew Scriptures is the Old Testament and not the TaNaKh can read this passage in Isaiah without making the association with Jesus. We are totally predisposed, against history, nature and logic, to read this verse as connected with Jesus because of our cultural context. The Christian reading has become the reading. Matthew quotes the Isaiah verse, with some minor textual variations, in connection with the dream of Joseph, the husband of Mary, who is puzzled by the pregnancy of his betrothed. He is told that she has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and will bear a son named Jesus: "behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel" (1 :23.). The passage in Isaiah, repeated almost verbatim in Matthew, is read out of its original, autonomous context, and becomes secondary to the prediction of Jesus' birthas a promise in relation to fulfillment. How did this happen? Well, translation was part of the problem: The Hebrew word for 'young 2 In general, the Hebrew prophets describe some deplorable deficiency in the God-consciousness or religious practice of the Israelites, usually an apparently hypocritical attention to ritual at the expense of justice, castigate them for their behavior, and then promise that if the behavior continues, God will punish the Israelites, but if they reformulate their priorities, then they "viII experience untold blessings. The classic example is Isaiah I.



woman,' almah, was translated as if it read betulalt-'virgjn', by the earliest Christian translators, perpetuating and strengthening the typologjcal associations of this verse, making it seem to point directly to Mary, the miraculous virgjn who conceives. And the tense of the phrase is a teaser-if it were expressed in the past tense, one could say that the woman in question was once a virgjn, but then she bore a son. The future tense makes it sound as if she continues to be a virgjn after her impregnation, and we are helped along by Christian doctrine to that conclusion. Thus, when Isaiah 7: 14 is read in the context of TaNaKh, the connection with Jesus is inconceivable. The young woman and the son are characters closely tied with the situation of King Ahaz and his political difficulties. The Christian association with Jesus makes no sense at all. When Isaiah 7: 14 is read in the context of the 'Old Testament,' however, the connection with Jesus is inescapable.

Moses' Return to Egypt-Another Flight into Egypt? Just as it is tempting to look at the Old Testament and assume that it is identical with the Hebrew Scriptures, it is very easy to look at medieval art and assume that because there are so many apparent similarities, both in terms of style or iconography, among gjven motifs in Jewish and Christian culture, that Jewish iconography needs to be 'read' in the same way as Christian iconography. Just as we are inured to the Christian reading of scriptural motifs as the reading, we tend to think in terms of that reading when we approach Jewish art. But medieval Jewish art necessarily differs from Christian art as much as Isaiah 7: 14 differs between the Hebrew Scriptures and the Old Testament, having been created, if not by Jewish artists, certainly for a Jewish market and for aJewish intellectual and theologjcal context vastly different from (and more often than not at odds with) the context of Christian culture. Just as Matthew appropriates Isaiah and twists him to the purposes of the nascent Christian community, medieval Jewish art appropriates (or more accurately re-appropriates) iconography from Christian culture and reconfigures it-either in the placement of images, the way in which they are juxtaposed, or the subtle variants they contain. That configuration can simply be a re-reading of the motif back into a Jewish context, or it can serve to actively oppose and subvert the Christian tapas it adopts.



Here is an illumination, which should seem, at first glance, recognizable to anyone who has studied medieval art. 3 (Fig. I) The iconography seems to conform to the standard motif of what art historians and New Testament scholars call The Holy Family's Flight Into Egypt: a man leading a donkey onto which he has loaded his young family. The narrative of The Holy Family's Flight Into Egypt is found in the second chapter of Matthew's Gospel. Herod, having learned from astrologers that a child is to be born who will be the promised Messiah of the Jews, is determined to hunt down Mary's child and destroy him. Joseph is instructed by a messenger of the Lord to take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until God gives him instructions. Mter Herod's death, a heavenly messenger again appears in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, telling him to get ready, take the child and his mother, and return to the land of Israel; for, "those who were seeking the child's life are dead."4 In the standard iconography, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus flee Bethlehem for Egypt. Our illumination seems to have originated in Catalonia, during a period of transition from Northern French to Italianate artistic influence, probably around 1320. 5 But even a cursory glance will indicate that although it bears some superficial similarities to the iconography of the Flight into Egypt,-that turning-point in the life of Jesus-the subject of our illustration is, in fact, another flight into Egypt, a flight which is less well-represented in the history of art, yet is definitely a turning point in the life of Moses. Moses, having fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian, makes his home in Midian. Appearing as an Egyptian, he meets and marries the daughter of a priest of that place. Mter a few years-the couple having been blessed with two sons-Moses receives the Divine message that "all the men who sought to kill you are dead." Exodus 4:20 continues: "So Moses took his wife and his sons, mounted them on the ass, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the rod of God with him." Obviously, it is this flight into Egypt in the Hebrew Scriptures which provides a typological point of departure and even parts of the 'script' for the account of the New Testament.

Golden Haggadah, Barcelona, c. 1320 BL Add 27210 f. 10v, b. Matthew 2: 1321. o For the dating and contextualization of the manuscript, I am indebted to Narkiss (1997) although, as it will become apparent, I dispute the author's reasons for asserting the probability that the manuscript was illuminated by Christian artists. 3 f



So, yes, this is a medieval illumination. But it is a medieval Jewish one, from a Hebrew manuscript, the so-called Golden Haggadah, now housed in the British Library. Here, on fo1. lOv, is a beardless Moses, bearing a spear, leading a donkey bearing Zipporah, his wife, a shawl pulled up over her head, and carrying her two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. He is greeted by his bearded brother Aaron at the left. Narkiss has claimed that "This rendering resembles the traditional iconography of the Bight into Egypt with Mary carrying Christ on a donkey led by Christ's step-brother, the youth James, and accompanied by the bearded Joseph."6 However, he offers no examples of illuminations featuring James. This inclusion of Jesus' half-brother is only occasional, rather than common as Narkiss implies ("the traditional iconography"). 7 One of the great lessons of the historiography of Hebrew manuscript illumination in the latter part of this century has been that in light of the pervasive division of labor in manuscript production, we cannot blithely assume that because the language of a Jewish manuscript is Hebrew, it was illuminated by a Jew. This caveat is an extremely important lesson in avoiding ungrounded assumptions. But it raises the question of how we determine if the artists were Jews or Christians and, in this context, assumptions are cast about with abandon. For several decades Bezalel Narkiss has argued that, in the instance of Sephardic illuminated manuscripts, while the scribes were clearly Jews, the illuminators might well have been Christian. Yet, when one investigates Narkiss' own reasons for this assertion, it turns out that his construction of the illuminator's Christianity is not based on any particular documentary evidence (there is none, pro or con), but on the fact that, in the case of our manuscript "the high quality of the illuminations of the Golden Haggadah and their stylistic resemblance to royal books of the period, ... , would imply that the Haggadah was illuminated by a secular Christian craftsman."8 On the surface, this assumption is understandable. In a Haggadah in which haloed angels (fo1. lOv a) and a Pharaoh bedecked in the Narkiss (1997) 57. A survey of examples in the Princeton Index of Christian Art reveals only a handful during the period in which contain this detail. While, for instance, James appears in the depiction of the Flight into Egypt in Oxford Ms. Gough Liturg. 2 f. 17, a late 12th century English psalter, he appears neither in Nicholas of Verdun's Klosterneuberg Altar of 1181, nor in the Biblia Pauperum of 1320~ 1350 (Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts, f. 3 r) which frame it chronologically. R Narkiss (1997) 66~7. 6




trappings of a medieval Spanish monarch (fo1. llr, c, for example) compete for our attention with realistic scenes of Pessah preparation in medieval Italianate Spanish interiors, (fo1. l5r, d) (Fig. 2)-is it really possible to speak of an indigenously Jewish image? Aren't all these images merely adopted from the art of the majority culture? But in making this assumption, Narkiss presents us with a problem, which he does not address explicidy, but to which we need to apply ourselves. If this manuscript was produced by a Christian artist, the very fact that this is medieval Jewish art is most definitely called into question: why should the iconography necessarily have any peculiarly Jewish significance? After all, the Christian artist might simply have illuminated the manuscript in conformity with general stylistic and iconographic convention. Indeed, as Ruth Mellinkoff has recendy argued in connection with the animal-headed and otherwise distorted figures in 13th and 14th-century Ashkenazi Hebrew manuscripts, a Christian artist may well have even inserted anti-jewish motifs into the iconography; according to her, such "antisemitic hate signs", in spite of their blatancy, might have completely eluded the Jewish patrons, accustomed as they were to looking without seeing. 9 I take issue with this theory, which makes medieval Jews out to be as blind as the Christians alleged them to be. But I cannot fault Mellinkoff's argument without addressing the foundation upon which it builds, namely, the arguments Narkiss's school has advanced for decades. Walking in the footsteps of Narkiss, historians of Jewish art have tended to label Hebrew manuscripts with unknown illuminators as the work of non-jews on an aesthetic basis with no documentary evidence for such claims. Such assumptions challenge the very possibility of Jewish art. The truth is, that in absence of specific documentary evidence of Christian illuminators-contracts, directions written in Latin or the vernacular, problematic emplacements of illuminations-it is equally possible that this illumination was created by a Christian craftsperson, or by a Jew with training in the techniques of the royal workshops, or a talent for imitating such work. We cannot know for sure that

'l Mellinkoff (1999) throughout, particularly in her conclusion, 58, and see my review essay, Epstein (Forthcoming, AJS Review: 2003).



there were such Jews, but neither do we have any evidence that there were not. In the case of the Golden Haggadah, Narkiss has pointed out that the iconography contains many details that suggest familiarity with midrash or with a Jewish model. Let's be honest with ourselves: if we can posit Christian artists who simply executed Jewish iconography to order, what stops us from postulating Jewish artists who were accomplished in the style of the period? Or, to move to a more complex conceptualization of cultural interplay, what prevents us from imagining Jewish artists who felt comfortable with and expressed themselves with facility in the idiom of the period, as did the patrons of the manuscript? Historians of Jewish art persist in viewing Christians as 'owning' medieval culture so that Jews must simply emulate it, even as art historical scholarship moves forward without them. 10 They are reluctant to acknowledge the possibility of an independent and often subversive aesthetic and creative impetus on the part of the sophisticated Jews who commissioned, and possibly created the manuscripts they study. And, by and large, they shy away from exploring the possibility of Jewish authorship of the illuminations and the repercussions of that possibility, simply because the manuscripts 'look too good' to have been created by Jews. The reasons for the attempted historiographical obviation of the possibility of indigenous Jewish creativity in the diaspora are complex and political. 11 They are based in tensions between scholarship in Israel and America, Zionist and post-Zionist agendas, and religious and secular outlooks. Crucial as they are, I'd like to leave these ideological and methodological issues for analysis in another context and return to focus on the particular image in question in the hope that we can redress some of the lacks in scholarship by application to its example. 10 This is the dominant mode of understanding assumed by the Jerusalem school of the history of Jewish art, as exemplified in the publications of the Center for Jewish Art of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But see also Suckale, R. "Uber den Anteil christlicher Maler an der Ausmalung hebrruscher Handschriften der Gotik in Bayern", in: Geschichte und Kultur der Juden in Bayem (Veroffendichungen zur Bayerischen Geschichte und Kultur Nr. 17/88), eds. M. Treml and J. Kirmeier (Munich, New York: 1988) 123-134. II For a complete discussion of the political motivations for this obviation, see my Overthrowing the Idols: A Radical Re-Appraisal if Jewish VISual Culture, currendy in press.



Given the lack of direct documentary evidence, and assuming, for the moment, the possibility that there were Jews, trained or selftaught as artists, who, like the manuscripts's patrons, were comfortable with, and expressed themselves with facility in the idiom of the period, there are two main possibilities for identifying the authors of the illumination of Moses and his family returning to Egypt in the Golden Haggadah.12 The imagc may have been produced by a Christian commissioned by Jews, or it may have been created by a Jew-a possibility which should not be discounted simply because the illumination is finely wrought. In either case, the artist would have had limited discretion in the production of the illuminations: it should be understood that a manuscript such as the Golden Haggadah represented a substantial economic investment on the part of its patrons, and as such, they would likely have wanted to have control over the process, just as a wealthy entrepreneur building a house would never leave the design entirely at the discretion of the builders or even the architect. Finally, it must be remembered that regardless of the background of the illuminator, his ultimate audience was a Jewish one, and so we must consider not only the origin but the possible reception of the illumination as well. Each of thc forgoing authorial possibilities requires a slightly different problematization: If we are dealing with a Jewish illuminator, we need to ask if this

is merely a wholesale adoption of the iconography of the Flight Into Egypt, or if it is an adaptation thereof.

12 There is certainly evidence that Jews trained in the art of illumination, learning in some cases from Christian illuminators. There are instances that indicate that they taught illumination (Mann [2000] 134-136) as well as the rare commission (Hillgarth and l\arkiss [1961]), but we still do not have direct, colophon evidence of Jewish illuminators of the manuscripts which constitute the bulk of "medieval Jewish art." There are several references, for instance, in Sifer Hasidim, forbidding use of books written or bound by Christian clerics: Yehudah HeHassid. Sijer Hasidim. Parma MS. Edited by J. Wistinetski (Frankfurt a.M.: 1924) par. 279, 280; palimpsests of Christian texts (par. 429), and even the shelving of bible manuscripts written by Christians on the same shelf as texts written by Jews (par. 429). There is also an admonition that one should not affixltie/bind/bind together the "'tabla'ot' of [Christian] priests' books with Israelite [i.e. Je",-ish] books." (par. 429: "Tablaot shel sfarim komerim, 10 yakshiram lesifrei Yisrael.") "Tabla'ot" here most likely "boards" (book covers), since recycled Christian book bindings were often made up of discarded Christian writings pasted together. I am unaware of (though I would dearly like to find) any references to manuscript illumination (as opposed to text writing or binding) by gentiles for Jews.



If it is an adaptation, we ought to seek out how the illuminator or patron has re-inscribed the iconography, so apparently similar to the Christian prototype, to serve his own reading of history. If one wishes to maintain that it was not Jews at all who actually produced the manuscript, but the Christian artist they commissioned, one must ask why, given the limited number of scenes possible to depict, did the Jewish patrons choose to request this particular, seemingly minor scene? And finally, even if we are dealing with Christian illuminators producing this manuscript entirely at their own discretion, it is necessary to investigate how a Jewish audience, looking at such a scene in 1320 might have 'read' it. We should begin by examining several notable differences between this illustration and the traditional iconography for the Flight into Egypt. These differences lead one to posit two possible intellectual contexts for this illumination; polemic and typological, with the understanding that those genres tend to overlap. The first and most transparent departure from the standard iconography of the Flight into Egypt is the fact that there are two babies in this picture. This may be seen, ab initio, as a polemic against the singularity of Jesus. Though two babies are obviously called for in the narrative context of Exodus 4:20, their prominent display in exactly the traditional position of Baby Jesus serves to make it abundantly clear to the viewer that this is another Flight into Egypt, and that it is not about Jesus. It affords the opportunity to highlight the fact that Zipporah, Moses' wife, while clearly not a virgin, is yet no less modest and unprepossessing than is Mary, mother of Jesus. The two children also introduce the theme of the fruitfulness of the line of Moses as opposed to the barrenness of the line of Jesus. While the portrayal of Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God, never corrupted by woman, was a fine model for Christian clerics, it was uncomfortable and even repugnant for Jews, for whom family life and biological persistence was paramount. 13 There is an emphasis in the midrashic tradition, particularly in the Exodus stories, on the fertility and continuity of the Jewish 'family line.'14 13 See Berger (1979) §42, Eng. 69-70, Heb. 29-30; see also §209 (Eng. 205, Heb. 144). 1+ See Midrash Tanhuma and ralkut Shimoni on Exodus 1:7, where each pregnancy during the Egyptian enslavement is said to have been preternaturally fertile,



Continuing the theme of fruitfulness, Moses is depicted as beardless and young, in deliberate juxtaposition to his brother Aaron, who is a bearded, dignified old man, and in contradistinction to Joseph, the husband of Mary.15 The characterization of Joseph can range from the relatively neutral, yet consistently mature, bearded man in this period 16 to increasingly frequent depictions in a slightly later period as a bitter and rejected old man in the background,17 a dried up, impotent old codger,18 or a fat, drunken knave. 19 In the naturalistic art of the late Gothic, he was often made the butt of visual jokes about infertility.20 Joseph is, furthermore, the type of the Synagogue, cuckolded by God in favor of the Church. 21 In the Golden Haggadah scene of Moses's family travelling to Egypt, there seems to be an active concern to distinguish Moses from Joseph by making him a young man in the center of the action, rather than an old man on the periphery, or the butt of a theological joke. The placement of a tree directly behind the head of Moses may be significant. Throughout the Golden Haggadah, there are a number of trees, some with obvious narrative significance, such as the burning bush (Fig. I). Other trees seem to serve decorative func-

producing six children at a time. RaMBaN (R. Moses b. Nahman, Nahmanides) points out that while one of Moses's sons, Gershom, had been born at the time of this narrative, the other, Eliezer, was born on the way to Egypt or back in Egypt. The artist makes an interesting assertion about the fertility of Moses and the integrity of family here by showing both children in this illumination. See RaMBaN-Chavel (1973), 51-3. 15 On Joseph, see the extensive bibliography in Ruth Mellinkoff, Outcasts: signs if otherness in northern European art if the late Middle Ages (Berkeley: 1993), 1:267 n. 146-148. Mellinkoff contrasts the dignified with the comic! denigrating images of Joseph, but fails to present a coherent typology of the historical development of his characterization. Though a shift from the undignified characterization to a more dignified one has been dated by Peter Burke to the 17th century, the shift from a relatively neutral to a negative characterization remains unexplained and is a desideratum for further research. 16 See the various examples adduced in Schreckenberg (New York: 1996) figs VI:I:a 1, 2, 6, 11-14, 18, 22, 25, 27, 29, 30 and 32. 17 Nativity, Chevalier Hours, Boucicaut Master, France, c. 1420's. London, BL MS. Add, 16977 fol. 57r. 18 Bernaert Van Orley, Holy Family, Panel Painting, c. 1510. Los Angeles,]. Paul Getty Museum. 19 Melchior Broederlam, Presentation if Christ and Flight into Egypt, Winged Altarpiece, c. 1400. Dijon, Musee des Beaux-Arts. 20 Master of Frankfurt, Flight Into Egypt, Panel Painting, 1503-1506. Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie. 21 Master of the St. Ursula Legend, Ecclesia and Synagoga, Panel Painting, Flemish, before 1482. Bruges, Groeningemuseum.



tions. The direct connection of this tree with the figure of Moses may indicate that it has some symbolic valence, as such trees often do in Hebrew manuscripts. A scene of a Jewish bridal procession, from an Italian Mahzor of the late 15th century, for instance, depicts a man shooting a bird in a beautiful espaliered tree situated directly above the head of the bride. 22 Conforming to the symbolic language of the secular love and marriage poetry and art of the manuscript's place and date, this tree is clearly a reference to the bride's fertility, just as the hunted bird refers to the capture of her virginity.23 Christian typology proclaimed Jesus to be the crowning blossom of the root of Jesse. To the Christian mind Jesus was the ultimate flowering of the Divine promise, a metaphor rendered visually in the image of the Crucifix as the Tree of Life. But Jews saw the flowering of that promise in their own children; they continued to long for a Messiah yet to come, from among their progeny. In their eyes, the wood of the cross upon which Jesus met his death was not the Tree of Life, but a barren branch. For them, Jesus represented not Isaiah's "shoot from the stock of Jesse" (11: 1), but Deuteronomy's "stock sprouting poison weed and wormwood" (29: 18). Jews did not accept the allegorical leap of Christian theology which made Jesus fertile because he was the generator of salvation, for them, he was ultimately barren-as the denouement of history, he produces no physical offspring. Moses is the active continuator of the Israelite line. To paraphrase a certain mythic bumper-sticker, 'jesus saves, but Moses invests!" Moses' legacy-his family tree, and his Torah-are a fruitful Tree of Life, not a barren cross. Hence Moses is depicted as young and handsome, and the tree that springs from directly behind his head is green and flourishing. 24 In the place of his traditional rod, and also in place of the traveling staff carried by Joseph, Moses carries a spear, which functions on both the polemic and the typological level. Amos Funkenstein 22 London, British Library ms Harley 5686, fo1. 27v. Reproduced in Metzger and Metzger, La Vze Juive au Moyen Age illustree par les manuscrits hibraiques enluminis du XIII' au XVI' siecle (Fribourg: 1982) fig. 343. 23 Falconing in particular seems to have been associated with love. See Friedman (1989) 157-186, wherein literature is also discussed. 24 There is also a tree above Joseph's head in Durer's Flight into Egypt, a detail of The Seven Sorrows qf the Virgin Altarpiece, oil on panel c. 1496-97, Alte Pinakothek, Munich. But this tree, growing out of a crag in the rock, is a symbol of Jesus' miraculous advent in spite of Joseph's infertility, just as the unicorn above Mary's head symbolically testifies to her virginity.



has alerted us to the ways in which Spanish jews could read biblical history typologically in their texts. 25 The iconography in the Golden Haggadah seems to function in the same way: here, Moses' return to Egypt to redeem his people serves as an internal jewish typology of redemption. Moses, abandoning his Egyptian identity as he leaves Midian, is a type for the jews, who abandon their identity as slaves as they leave Egypt. Thus, he bears a spear at his personal exodus, foreshadowing the great national exodus: "and the People of Israel left Egypt armed" (hamushim). This is visually emphasised (and inscribed) in the 14th-century Rylands Haggadah, where the Israelites are figured as armed and armoured footsoldiers (Fig. 3).26 The same iconography can also function polemically, if we understand Moses to be presented in contradistinction to joseph, Mary's husband, who is a symbol of the Synagogue. It must be remembered that a standard attribute of the Synagogue is a broken spear. One need only think of the cathedral sculptures of the 13th century. In the Golden Haggadah, Moses' spear is unbroken, standing perhaps a symbol of what one might term !iJnagoga militans and an expression of the confidence that the Torah of Moses will remain a viable weapon against Christianity.27 The fact that a dog accompanies Moses and his family is also interesting. The pshat-the contextual interpretation-of this detail, when taken in the context of the illumination of Moses' encounter with God before the burning bush (the preceding illustration in the iconographic narrative of the Golden Haggadah) is that this is the 'Ben Amram family dog' . Yet, the appearance of dogs, like that of trees, in a Haggadah may be fraught with multifarious valences. I have elsewhere discussed the hare-hunt as a symbol of the oppression of Israel by the nations of the world. 28 In the mid-14th century Sarajevo Haggadah, for example, it appears in conjunction with the phrase, "And the Egyptians pressured US."29 (Fig. 4) Simultaneously Funkenstein (1993) 98-100. Exodus 13:18, per Shemot Rabbah XX: 19, and quoted by Rashi ad loc. Rylands Haggadah, Catalonia, c. 1350, John Rylands Library Heb. 6 f. 18v and 19r: see 1he Rylands Haggadah. A Medieval Sephardi Masterpiece in Facsimile ed. R. Loewe (London: 1988) fol. 18v-19r. 27 On the concept of lex militans (my term), here extrapolated into synagoga militans, see Epstein (1997) 39-69. 28 Epstein (1997) 16-38. 29 Sarajevo Haggadah, c. 1320 Sarajevo, National Library Heb. ms 1, part 2 fol. 13v. The illumination and text sections are paginated separately. See the facsimile edition The Sarajevo Haggadah (Belgrade, Sarajevo: 1983) part 2 fol. 13v. 25




more veiled and more explicit is a depiction in the mid-fourteenth century Barcelona Haggadah of a hare being served a drink by a dog (Fig. 5). This illustration seems like a typical example of mundus inversus iconography. It appears as an upper marginal illustration for the text "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt." The lower margin depicts the Israelites slaving in Egypt, and the implication here is, "We were slaves, but one day the Egyptian dogs will serve us!" The dog is here clearly a symbol for the Egyptians. 3o A dog which appears prominendy in the foreground of the illustration of the Exodus in a 15th century Spanish Haggadah has its mouth open with no tongue, evidendy to represent the fulfillment of God's promise to the Israelites that "There shall be a loud cry in the Land of Egypt. . . but not a dog shall whet his tongue" at any of them. (Exodus 11:6-7).31 Even in the biblical text, where the silence of the dogs appears in apposition to the loud cry of Egypt, the dogs are the mirror image of the Egyptians themselves, since both are miraculously prevented from hindering the Israelites. Thus, the dogs often shown accompanying Pharaoh and the Egyptian nobles in Haggadah illumination may not be merely "corroborative detail" in the service of "artistic verisimilitude". 32 These dogs symbolically represent 'Egypt,' in iconographic parallel to the midrashic use of the expression "Pharaoh and Mizrayim (Egypt, e.g. 'the Egyptians')".33 Since dogs are associated with the enemies of Israel in Hebrew manuscripts, it should not surprise us to find dogs associated with the enemies of Jesus in Christian manuscripts, particularly with Jews. As surely as one finds dogs accompanying Pharaoh in Hebrew manuscripts, one finds them accompanying Pilate or Jesus' Jewish enemies in Christian art, especially commonly in the late Middle Ages. Luke's shepherds "abiding in the fields" are invariably accompanied by dogs in very central positions, which one could take for local color, were it not for those instances where the dog is so prominent and so disturbing that it cannot be read as a positive or even 30 Barcelona Haggadah, Barcelona, c. 1350, BL 14761 f. 30v. Sec Epstein (1997) color plate IV. 31 Ka1ffrnann Haggadah (Budapest: 1957) Illumination section, p. 74. 32 For ex. Rylands Haggadah, Catalonia, c. 1350 JRL. Heb. 6 f. 15r, a and 15v, a. See The Rylands Haggadah. A Medieval Sephardi Masterpiece in Facsimile cd. R. Loewe (London: 1988) fo1. 15r and 15v. 33 Cf. e.g. RaShI on Exodus 17:5, RaMbaN on Genesis 44:1, BaMidbar Rabbah 10:2 Midrash Tehillim 2:2.



a neutral symbol. A black dog with a spiked collar baying at the angels in the Rohan Hours (France, 1419-1427) is a symbol of the Jewish dogs, who, like the Jewish shepherds, are witness to the message of Jesus' birth, but clearly do not comprehend its implications as fully as the Gentile Magi do. 34 Returning to the dog watching the burning bush, one may, perhaps, read it as a type for the Egyptians who will witness God's wonders in Egypt, but fail to understand the message. And the dog accompanying Moses' "Holy Family" as they leave Midian may typologically foreshadow the silence of the "Egyptian dogs" at the moment of the Exodus from Egypt, or even the "mixed multitude" which accompanied the Israelites at that time.

The "exceptional donkey" and coded Messianism All these details are important in understanding the transformation which an iconographic formula is likely to undergo in its move between Christian and Jewish manuscripts. But the signal issue here, in this particular scene in the Golden Haggadah, is the larger one: why such an apparently incidental scene was chosen for depiction at all, in light of the limited space available to the artist. The answer is that this scene is by no means incidental. In his commentary on Exodus 4:20, the French exegete RaShI (Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac of Troyes) uses the narrative of the return of Moses' family to Egypt to illuminate a course of sacred history which is both linear and cyclical. 35 He takes as his exegetical point of departure the word 'the ass (ha-hamor).' RaShI's commentary imparts an emphasis to the direct article through which he 'reveals' an understanding of the place of this particular donkey in history and in eschatology:

31 On the association between dogs and Jews, see the discussion of dog-headed 'unbelievers' in Pentecost illustrations in Freedman (1981) 61-4. See also Marrow,]., "'Circumdederunt me canes multi', Christ's tormentors in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance", Art Bulletin, 59:2 (1977) 167-181. 35 RaShI-ChaveI (1982) 185. This interpretation is not cited by Spanish commentators, but it is adopted from Pirkei De Rabbi Elie;:;er 30: I, which would have been well-known to a contemporary Spanish Jewish audience.



The ass: That is; the [exceptional] ass which Abraham saddled on his way to the binding of Isaac, and the one upon which in the future the King Messiah shall be revealed, as it says: " ... Humble, riding on an ass." (Zechariah 9:9).

RaShI here uses an aggadic connection present in the early medieval PirJcei De Rabbi Eliezer, which established the identity of the three donkeys; this classic reference would have been familiar across the whole Jewish world. But RaShI ingeniously links it with a seemingly simple explication of the humble definite article-the letter hek-showing how that grammatical particle literally transfigures the plebeian donkey and is transfigured by it. The donkey is transmuted by the letter heh, as surely as Abram is transformed to Abraham by the addition of the divine letter heh. It becomes a symbol of profound historical and eschatological significance, standing at the very center of the process ofJewish redemption. Tangibly and affectingly, Moses' movement toward his preordained role as redeemer of the people of Israel is linked with the movement of Abraham, the first Jew, toward his decisive role in the drama of the near-slaughter and rescue of his son. At the other end of history, the donkey accompanying Moses on his mission of salvation parallels the slow, but inevitable progress of the Messiah toward the gates of Jerusalem for the ultimate redemption. This advance is constantly in danger of being forestalled; by Abraham's potential lack of faith, by Moses' self-doubt, by humankind's evildoing or indifference. But it is the donkey, the very same donkey, which moves, slowly, determinedly, with plodding perseverance, inexorably through history, toward personal, national, and finally, universal deliverance. 36

36 The donkey in our illumination looks rather like a horse. It is evident that the artist knew how to depict a donkey because he does so rather more convincingly on f. 12v, b where the shaggy donkey scratches his nose with his hind leg in a naturalistic manner. The elongated ears of the beast in our illumination are the only elue that it is a donkey. The elegant curve of the neck, the smooth, rather than ragged fur, the refined muzzle, the size, the stature and the tail, all invest it with a grace and dignity which surpasses the average donkey. Although it is labelled a donkey, it is clear that the artist intends to show it as what RaShI calls 'hamar hameyuhad'-the exceptional donkey-to further the exegetical point and to distinguish it from the mere ass ridden by the protagonists of the Christian Hight into Egypt. The donkey does appear in later illuminated and printed Haggadot, usually as the mount of the Messiah. (C£ Washington Haggadah, Ashkenaz, 1478. (Washington D.C., Library of Congress, Haggadah, 1478 [Scribe: Yoel b. Shimon]) fol. 19v, and the printed Haggadot from Mantua, 1560 [Sl!fokh Hamatkha], Venice 1609 [Adir Hu],



It is wjth a certain irony that RaShI quotes the Pirkei De Rabbi Eliezer's Midrash about the donkey. One had only to be in the streets of Troyes, RaShI's home town, or in any other Christian city, on Palm Sunday to wjtness pageants featuring Jesus, in effigy, riding on an ass into the Church. 37 For RaShI, the Christian interpretation of Zechariah's "poor man, riding on an ass" must have seemed as wooden as the effigies themselves. RaShI's donkey is a Jewjsh donkey, symbolic of progress rather than culmination; on the road to redemption, but always linked wjth redemptive history. This certainly would not have eluded the illuminator, were he a Jew, or his audience, in any case. There is a similar irony in this appropriation of the iconography of a monumental juncture in the course of Christian history to depict what we now understand to be a monumental juncture in Jewjsh history. The image makes a statement about the interconnectedness ofJewjsh history and its inevitable progress toward redemption. To the Jewjsh viewer, this donkey is RaShI's donkey, moving through a living continuum of which he or she is a part.

Conclusion The final, and most compelling stratum of the illumination is its reflexiveness. Whether illuminated by aJew or a Christian, it unquestionably reflects a Christian motif, and its presence in a Jewish book requires pondering. And this is not just any Jewish book: it is a book about redemption, past, as well as future; a living book in which Jews in the Middle Ages saw their own reflection, for the Haggadah instructs us that "in every generation, one is required to view oneself as if one had personally come out of Egypt." Of course, this illumination might have been produced by a Christian artist working entirely at his own discretion and bringing in Christian motifs simply because they were what he knew and they "sort of fit." It might have been produced by a Jewjsh artist slav-

and Amsterdam 1662 [Slifokh Hamatkha], among others.) Its appearance is no doubt also sanctioned by the fact that it links Abraham, Moses and the Messiah, the three important redemptive figures mentioned or alluded to in the text of the Haggadah. 37 For a number of images roughly contemporary with the Golden Haggadah sec Schreckenbcrg (New York: 1996) 132-141.



ishly copying scenes from the life of Jesus without knowing it, or thinking about what he was doing. It might have been produced for a patron who just didn't understand, didn't get it, didn't care, someone who simply wanted (and certainly got) an extravagantly lavish and beautiful book. But what if it was not? In commissioning, depicting or viewing such a central scene from the Jewish sacred story in the guise of a similar, yet ultimately very different scene from Christian history, the patron, the illuminator, and his viewers may be playing out their own reflexive replication of Moses' own flight into Egypt. When Moses comes to Midian, he is well-nigh indistinguishable from the Egyptians among whom he was raised. His speech, his appearance, his manner, his carriage manages to deceive Yitro's daughters, who report to their father that "an Egyptian man saved us." Yet we, the readers of the biblical text, know the whole story-we know that this is 'our' Moses. Given the style of this manuscript, it is likely that its patron, its scribe, its illuminator, and its audience, Catalonian Jews of the 1320's, were indistinguishable in many aspects of their external appearance and material culture from their Castilian Christian neighbors-Like Moses .... Like Zipporah.-Like the book ... Like the illumination itself.-The illumination seems to play with this: in all its stylistic externals, it appears not as a Hebrew (that is, a Jewish), but as an Egyptian (that is, a Christian) image. Only the details have been changed. But if one scrutinizes it closely, this image turns out to be vastly different from its apparent analogues, like Joseph revealing himself to his brothers. And what emerges, as in the case of Moses returning from Midian, is something really very Jewish at heart. Perhaps the illuminator is saying something similar about his patrons and audience. Perhaps he is saying something similar about himself as well.

Bibliography Berger, D. (1979) Sifer Nizzahon VetUJ, The Jewish Christian Debate in the High Middle Ages, cd. D. Berger (Philadelphia: 1979). Van Buren, P. (1990) "On reading someone else's mail: The Church and Israel's Scriptures", in Die Hebriiische Bibel und ihre zweifache Nachgeschichte: Festschrifl for Rolf Rendtorff zurn 65. Geburtstag, eds. E. Blum, C. Macholz, E. Stegemann (NeukirchenVluyn: 1990) 595~606.



Epstein, M.M. (1997) Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (University Park, PA: 1997). (2001) Friedman, J.B. (1981) The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought (Cambridge, Mass: 1981). Friedman, M. (1989) "The Falcon and the Hunt: Symbolic Love Imagery in Medieval and Renaissance Art", in Poetics 'If Love in the Middle Ages ed. M. Lazar and NJ. Lacy (Fairfax, Va. and Lanham, Mass.: 1989) 157-186. Funkcnstein, A. (1993) Perceptions of Jewish History (Los Angeles: 1993). The Ka1ffmann Haggadah, ed. A. Schreiber (Budapest: 1957). Loewe, R. (1988) The Rylands Haggadah. A Medieval Sephardi Masterpiece in Facsimile ed. R. Loewe (London: 1988). Mellinkoff, R. (1999) Antisemitic Hate SZI!flS in Hebrew Illuminated Manuscriptsfrom Medieval Germa'!)' (Jerusalem: 1999). Narkiss, B. (1997) The Golden Haggadah (London: 1997). Ramban (Nachmanides) (1973), Commentary on the Torah, vol. 2: Exodus, transl. C.B. Chavel (New York: 1973). The Sarajevo Haggadah (Belgrade and Sarajevo: 1983). Schreckenberg, H. (1996) The Jews in Christian Art: An Illustrated History (New York: 1996).

Figures I. 2. 3. 4.

Golden Haggadah, Barcelona, c. 1320 British Library Add 27210 fol. IOv Golden Haggadah, Barcelona, c. 1320 British Library Add 27210 fol. 15r Rylands Haggadah, Catalonia, c. 1350 John Rylands Library Heb. 6 fol. 18v Sarajevo Haggadah, Aragon, c. 1320 Sarajcvo, National Library Hcb. ms I, part 2 fol. 13v 5. Barcelona Haggadah, Barcelona, c. 1350, British Library 14761 f. 30v


This is the bread of affliction which our forefathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let anyone who is hungry eome and eat; let anyone who has need of hospitality come and celebrate Passover. This year here we are slaves; in the coming year we [hope to be] in the Land of Israel as free men. (Passover haggadah, opening text) [It is at Passover] that one destroys leaven, for Israel escaped from an alien domain; they were uprooted from [Egypt] and linked to the matzah, the holy bond. . .. Come and see. The fourteenth day [of the month of NisanJ is when the moon is in perfect intercourse with the sun, and the lower crowns are hardly to be found in the world. When the moon is new many evil species are aroused and they spread throughout the world. But when the intercourse of the moon takes place in the full light of the sun, they are all gathered into one place, and the holy powers of the king are aroused. . . Therefore on the fourteenth day they prepare themselves, rid themselves of all leaven, and enter the domain of holiness. (Zohar, III, 95a-95b) Thus the Shekhinah says [to the Holy One]: Even though You ascend above, Your image is never removed from me, like the seal that is in the place to which cleaves the impression of the master of the seal. The image of the seal through which He is known is not removed from her. . . The seal of the Holy One, blessed be He, is certainly the Shekhinah. (Tikkunei ha-Zohar I, 18a)

The extant illuminated manuscripts of the Hebrew Passover haggadah from medieval Christian Spain have long been celebrated as major monuments of medieval Jewish art and as an index of the cultural efflorescence of the Spanish Jews since the dislocation brought on by the Reconquista. At the same time, the manuscripts are symptomatic of the acculturation of Spanish Jews to their Christian hosts. The present study aims to reconcile these two perspectives through an examination of a key image that appears in each of the manuscripts: the illustration of Passover's central symbol, the unleavened bread. This striking image is shown to be effective both in fortifYing



specifically Jewish meanings for a Jewish audience and also in participating within a contemporary visual discourse of power that crossed cultural and religious boundaries. The illuminated image of the unleavened bread can therefore be viewed as a microcosm ofJewishChristian relations in later medieval Spain. l

The Illustration

if the

Passover Matzah

Mter narrating the account of the biblical exodus from Egypt, the Passover haggadah turns to a consideration of the three central festival symbols, reminding the reader, in the words of Rabbi Gamaliel, that anyone who neglects to refer specifically to these three things on Passover fails to fulfill his religious obligation. They are: the paschal lamb (pesah) , the unleavened bread (matzah), and the bitter herb (maror).2 We are told that the paschal lamb, ritually slaughtered for Passover during Temple times but subsequently only invoked symbolically, represents the Lord's "passing over" the homes of the Israelites when He smote the firstborn of Egypt (Ex. 12:27); the unleavened bread recalls the haste in which the Israelites fled Egypt, since they did not even have time for their dough to rise (Ex. 12:39); and the bitter herb symbolizes the bitterness and harshness of slavery in Egypt (Ex. I: 14). Because the ritual meal that features these symbolic foods is itself so highly symbolic and so essentially a representation, supporting the liturgy and its text with imagery that is not a superfluous or literal accompaniment to the powerful imagery of the rite presents certain problems. The illuminated haggadah manuscripts from Spain offer a unique solution, one that provides effective and powerful imagery to complement the ritual observance of the festival. This involves, first of all, an articulation of the hierarchy of the symbols. The haggadah text itself makes a distinction between the paschal lamb, which refers to a ritual observance from the Second Temple period, now defunct, and the other two food-symbols which are physically present at the seder table. Accordingly, the set of illustrations that was developed to accompany this passage in the haggadah emphasizes the matzah and maror in an artistic confirmation of their greater I For an expanded version of this study that also considers the other decorative features of the haggadah manuscripts from Christian Spain, see Batterman (2000). 2 Mishnah, Pesahim X, 5.



liturgical importance. Of the 22 Sephardic-rite manuscripts from the late-13th and 14th centuries that contain illustrations of the matzah and maror, only eight can also be said to contain an illustration of the paschal lamb. 3 In contrast, illustrations of the unleavened bread and the bitter herb constitute one of the most consistent and prominent aspects of the decoration of the Spanish haggadah. They occur in each of the surviving manuscripts where they exhibit a striking uniformity of conception that clearly distinguishes them from the illustrations of these symbols in non-Spanish manuscripts. 4 Their character can best be described as iconic: although in their contexts they are recognizable as the round wafer of unleavened bread or the cluster of green leaves that they represent, each is a stylized, ornamental image, usually centered on its page, often large in size and generally monumentalized by the employment of various decorative motifs or the addition of supporting or associated figures. Even the earliest examples, although generally smaller, simpler in design, and unilluminated in some cases, share with the later and more deluxe images this general character. Typical non-Spanish versions of these illustrations tend to be much more modest and subdued in character and are also more literal, usually depicting the ritual food without embellishment and in its ceremonial context, in the hand of a celebrant. As companion images, the matzah and maror are the oldest known illustrations to be included within a Jewish festival prayer book, preceding the emergence of the haggadah as an independent illuminated book and in fact appearing as early as the tenth or 11 th century in a manuscript later discovered in the Cairo genizah. 5 3 Or. 2737, Ham. 288, jTSA 9478, Sarajevo, Kaufmann A 422, Parma 2411, Israel Museum 181/41, and Add. 14761. Complete shelf-marks for the 22 manuscripts are given in the bibliography. For an iconographic index of haggadah illustrations see Metzger (1973). 4 With the exceptions of an unfinished manuscript (Parma 2229, which allots a full page for the matzah illustration (f. 27) and half a page for the maror illustration (f. 28)) and a manuscript that is missing the folio on which a full-page illustration of the maror likely existed (Mocatta I-the missing leaf belongs between current folios 43v and 44). The maror illustration in Add. 14761 (f. 62v) dates from a later period but was executed on an original leaf, for some reason left undecorated originally. 5 D. Kaufmann, "Les Cycles d'images du type allemand dans I'illustration ancienne de la Haggada", &vue des Etudes Juives 38 (1898), 75; idem, "Notes on the Egyptian Fragments of the Haggadah", Jewish Qgarter[y Review X (1897-98) 381; Metzger (1973) 184, reproduces only the maror illustration from this manuscript, since the page with the matzah illustration was lost before ever being published. The fragment is in the collection of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Hungary, in Budapest.



Otherwise undecorated Hebrew liturgical compendia from 13thcentury Spain feature these stock illustrations in the form of simple drawings or sketches-predecessors of the more confident and highly embellished images of the 14th century with which they nevertheless share a similar stylized and iconic quality. The matzah illustrations are particularly inventive, and for reasons that are outlined below they will be the main focus of attention. They exhibit a great diversity in style and in the employment of decorative motifs. Approximately a third of the extant images employ mudejar-style geometric ornamentation;6 almost as many feature decorative patterns that are clearly indebted to western gothic models. 7 Several of the images employ the popular and widespread motif of the six- or eight-petalled rosette as the central decoration;8 many others display four or more triangular points or spikes, which protrude from the perimeter of the circle. 9 Most employ two or more colors (vermilion and blue are most common, but some also contain ochre, green, magenta, or violet) and about half of the illustrations contain gold leaf, in several instances a substantial amount. In most cases the decorative identifying label "This Matzah" (the opening words of the accompanying text) precedes the illustration, although three of the images contain the words within the disc itself, like an engraved inscription. lo Despite this significant diversity, the overall commitment to decorative invention unifies the entire group of images, and their visual impact is striking. In many of the manuscripts, this illustration is the locus of the most ambitious artistic effort and the greatest investment of resources. Each illustration of the bitter herb is more or less parallel to the matzah image that immediately precedes it (in terms of size, orientation, etc.). If overall these illustrations tend to exhibit less artistic invention that the matzah images and adhere instead to a somewhat more realistic (though still stylized) formula, this may be due to the constraints of having to produce an illustration that more or less 6 Hamilton 288 (f. 22), Estense Or. 92 (f. 6v), ]TSA 9478 (f. 29), Golden (f. 44v) , Or. 2884 (£ 51 v), ]TSA 9300 (f. 23v), Mocatta I (£ 43), Poblet 100 (£ 17). 7 Sarajevo (f. 26), Or. 1404 (£ 17v), Israel Museum 181/41 (f. 56v), Kaufmann A 422 (f. 38v), Add. 14761 (f. 61), Golden (f. 44v). H Parma 2411 (t: 28), Paris 636 (f. 110), Paris 637 (f. 132v), Cambridge Add. 1203 (f. 66v), jTSA 9478 (f. 29). 9 Paris 654 (£ 22v), Mocatta I (£ 43), Parma 2411 (f. 28), Or. 2737 (£ 22), jTSA 9300 (£ 23v), Casanatense 2761 (f. 36v), Paris 590 (f. 185), Estcnse Or. 92 (f. 6v), Poblet 100 (f. 17), Kaufmann A 422 (f. 38v), Or. 2884 (f. 51 v). JO Casanatense 2761, Sarajevo, Israel Museum 181/41.



resembles a bunch of greens. The circle, after all, is far richer and more flexible a form from an iconographic perspective. It is also clear that from a cultural standpoint the matzah was certainly the more important and resonant symbol. But since the haggadah text supports an equal treatment of the two symbols, artists/iconographers may very well have opted to provide two equivalent illustrations, adopting the artistic conventions chosen for the representation of the matzah for that of the maror. Many of the matzah illustrations also incorporate representational imagery of some kind. Some include human figures within the design, either within the actual disc itself, II supporting or presenting the matzah,12 radiating outwards from it,13 or as part of a more elaborate composition.1 4 Some matzah images contain other types of figurative elements, such as animals,15 a hybrid creature,16 heraldic shields,17 and in one case, a bolted wooden door. 18 Scholars have been unable to explain the meaning of this associated imagery. But despite the many differences in style, color and ornamental detail, each image conforms to a basic mode of presentation that has been described as iconic and monumentalized. Each matzah illustration dominates the page on which it appears, even the dozen that are not full-page or nearly full-page compositions. None actually resemble literally or realistically the wafer of unleavened bread each purports to illustrate. 19 Yet their artistic elaboration in these manuscripts, although familiar to scholars of medieval Jewish art, has hardly been discussed in the literature. 2o Despite the ritual and symbolic importance of the Passover matzah, the character of its representation in the Spanish haggadah has never been considered as a significant question in its own right, worthy of investigation. ]TSA 9300. Sarajevo ]TSA 9478, Or. 1404, Israel Museum 181/4l. 13 Casanatense 2761 14 Kaufmann A 422, Add. 14761, Or. 1404. 15 Or. 2737, Ham. 288. 16 Or. 1404. 17 Kaufmann A 422, Add. 1476l. 18 Golden. 19 By contrast, depictions of matzah elsewhere in these manuscripts are more reliable as likenesses. On methods for decorating actual matzot since the time of the Second Temple see Sed-Rajna (1990), 9; B. Narkiss, The Golden Haggadah (London: 1970) 20-21; and also I. Abrahams, "The Shape of the Matzoth", 1he Book qf Delight and Other Papers (Philadelphia: 1912) 290-300. 20 One exception is the brief mention in R. Wischnitzer, "Illuminated Haggadahs", Jewish Qyarterfy Review (1923) 213. II




The Problem The search for significance and meaning in these images and, indeed, the conviction that such a search is warranted rests on the assumption that their unusual character is the result of a deliberate and purposeful effort whose implications were grasped by the viewers for whom the images were made. The alternative-that they are purely decorative or fanciful artistic renderings-is not tenable. First, the matzah was too important within the religious culture (as symbol, biblical commandment, and liturgical object) and its artistic representations in the manuscripts are both too consistent and too inventive for there to have been no meaning conveyed by their particular mode of presentation. Secondly, such claims for "mere decoration" and purposeless imitation of forms and iconography characterize a traditional approach to the study of art produced by and for Jews in the middle ages that scholars increasingly seek to abandon. Scholarship in the field has often assumed that Jewish choices in iconography and style are generally devoid of authentic meaning or 'agency', resulting only from the slavish imitation and non-critical borrowing of forms from the surrounding culture or from antique traditions. An alternative model supported by the present study characterizes Jewish art-making during the high middle ages (and Jewish acculturation, which it exemplifies) as a highly critical and often subversive process in which Jews fashioned for themselves an identity based upon their complex and increasingly problematic relationship with their Christian hosts. Forms and motifs from the majority culture were strategically appropriated and then transformed and judaized' in order to suit the needs and demands of thc new audience. Jewish art and culture was a field for the expression of potentially subversive ideas and for the negotiation of an ambivalent identity based upon a shifting relationship with the dominant culture. 2 I As an investigation into the meaning attributed to these images by their medieval audience, this study must come to terms with an array of questions concerning their status and function as representations. Among these questions are: What do these images actually resemble, 21 See, e.g., the models proposed in M. Epstein, Dreams qf Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (University Park, PA: 1997) and 1. Marcus, Rituals rifChildhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe (New Haven: 1996).



or what did viewers 'see' in them aside from the wafer of unleavened bread? How were they understood to function within the performative context of thc Passovcr seder and the ritualized reading of the haggadah? What sort of interpretive apparatus equipped viewers to understand whatever message these images were meant to convey? The road to discovering meaning in these images begins with an understanding of the matzah as a powerful motif within Sephardic culture, associated with the elect status of Israel and with the triumph of good over evil. The matzah's prominent role and meaning in Jewish life begins with the biblical commandment to observe the "Feast of Unleavened Bread" (Ex. 12:17; 34:18; Lev. 23:6). Rabbinical tradition provided a great deal of guidance concerning the proper observance of laws that govern the preparation and ritual consumption of matzah. This was supplemented by both esoteric and popular traditions that valorized the matzah as a sign of Jewish identity and a source-or more properly a transmitter-of divine power. The kabbalistic literature fosters this understanding of the matzah by identifying it with the dominant motif of the Shekhinah, the Divine Presence. Valorized as an archetypal image by Spanish kabbalists, the Shekhinah was a prime focus of mystical devotion and was described and imagined by means of an almost endless array of metaphors. Among these was the Passover matzah, the consummate symbol of Israel's election and of the yearning for redemption. The images of the matzah in the haggadot, clearly not conceived as literal illustrations, emerge instead as imaginative representations of God's redeeming Presence, or as visualizations of divine glory. Breaking new iconographic ground-in transposing what are essentially literary images or metaphors into visual signs-the creators of the illustrations appropriated visual images from the dominant Christian culture, where they functioned as emblems of power and authority. These artistic models for the matzah illustrations fall into two general categories that correspond respectively with two areas of intense conflict in Jewish-Christian relations on the peninsula in the period during which the manuscripts were produced. The first category comprises Christian sacred imagery surrounding the matzah's antitype or nemesis, the consecrated Host, and is variously sacramental, apocalyptic, or cosmological in theme. It includes such diverse expressions as: liturgical forms such as the elevation during the Mass, monstrances and other Eucharistic artifacts;



devotional images of the Blessed Sacrament; icons of divine Majesty or Christ in glory; and diagrammatic representations of a Christian cosmos. Some of this imagery may seem visually far removed from the Eucharist, but it all shares an emphasis on the absolute salvational power and glory of God. 'Whether doctrinal or devotional in orientation, this imagery was known to the Jewish elite of Spain for whom it provided a visual accompaniment to the aggressive advancement of Christian views and particularly to the hostile turn against the Jewish minority.22 The spread of sacramental imagery in Christian Spain was a hallmark of the religious culture of the time; it effectively articulatcd the power of the Church and it contributed to the maintenance of a Christian order. The power of this imagery was thus very real to Jews, for it represented and facilitated their own debasement and persecution. The second category of visual models for the matzah images pertains to political and juridical culture. It includes the various marks of validation found on official documents, foremost among which is the seal, which as an object, an impression, and a representation of authority provided an especially appropriate metaphor for the role and unique power of the matzah in validating the elect status of Israel. Related signs such as heraldic devices and the signa rodado-an illuminated seal-like representation unique to the kingdom of Castile-carried greater weight in the visual culture than their scant treatment by art historians would suggest. In addition to their use as markers of identification and validation within Jewish culture, these signs had a significant role to play in the political struggles of the Spanish Jews from the latc thirteenth century, and therefore they acquired additional force within the Jewish community as emblems of power and privilege. Underlying these two categories of signs are two distinct conceptions of rulership-divinel cosmic and temporal-that are at times brought into alignment through the exercise of ideology but that nevertheless found artistic and visual expression in different cultural realms. In sacred imagery was projected the rule of Christ and of 22 Legislation in the 1320s designed to curb Jewish economic activity in the Crown of Aragon confirms that Jews were involved in the sale of Christian holy books, including those for Mass and Office, and others in which Christian symbols and images appeared. See Y.T. Assis, Jewish Economy in the Medieval Crown if Aragon, 12131327: Mon€)! and Power (Leiden: 1997) 85.



the church; by means of seals and related signs temporal authority was manifested and enacted. Within their respective realms, each of these signifiers of power was understood by Spanish Jews as a particular manifestation of Christian hegemony and therefore as an instrument of the Christian persecution of Jews in Spain.' In appropriating and transforming this imagery, Jews projected their own concept of rulership from their perspective as a minority culture and an exiled nation. Jewish cultural formulations of the matzah as a potent force and a badge of Jewish efficacy empowered the images to respond to the Christian threat and to fortifY the Jewish position. In this way, the rituals and customary practices of Passover functioned as polemical tools, and the matzah images assisted in propounding the message. In addition to the circular form that these two types of signs most often assume (and that relate them most obviously-and supcrficiallyto the matzah), they also share a common stake in the dominant constructions of power in high medieval Christendom. The consecrated Host and the imprinted (especially royal) seal each offer the viewer/participant a privileged and secure place within a Christian world order, at the price of one's subscription to and subservience within that order. The image of the Passover matzah, similar in form and in its status as an emblem of power, stands outside this order and addresses an altogether different community of believers. My contention, however, is that it borrows visual conventions and in fact derives its very power as a Jewish religious image from the Christian power symbols it assimilates and with which the court Jews of Spain were familiar. The present concern with the recovery of meaning in no way implies that only one meaning or interpretation is legitimate, nor that a particular meaning can be incontrovertibly established through purely empirical research. In fact, the artistic appropriations discussed are neither documented nor documentable as such, and the conclusions do not preclude the possibility of alternative readings and approaches. This study proposes only that some measure of understanding of the significance and meaning once ascribed to the matzah illustrations is not beyond our reach. It therefore contributes toward advancing the understanding of how this decorated book functioned for its medieval Jewish owners and readers.



A Vision Q/ Glory First and foremost, the image of the matzah within these haggadah manuscripts should be understood as an artistic visualization of God's redeeming presence. Theosophic Kabbalah became the preeminent expression of the will to gain access to that presence in late thirteenth-century Jewish Spain, and its cultural influence had reached a peak early in the fourteenth century.23 Spanish kabbalists of the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, in their quest to gain mystical knowledge of God through his manifestations and emanations, took a special interest in Passover and its liturgical manual, the haggadah. As a commemoration and reenactment of Israel's paradigmatic experience as an exile nation, Passover is a vehicle for Jewish collective memory and a celebration of God's love for and presence among the community of IsraeL The Sifer ha-Zohar ("Book of Splendor"), easily the most celebrated and canonical compilation of theosophic writings from late thirteenth-century Castile, contains a section on Passover that describes this Jewish festival and its dominant motif, the matzah, in theosophic terms.24 This passage 25 describes the matzah as a manifestation of the Shekhinah (also known as Malkhut-'kingdom'), literally the 'in-dwelling' or Divine Presence, the manifest glory of God and the lowest of the ten divine principles or emanations. The Shekhinah was an archetypal motif for kabbalists, and it was imagined and described in the most poetic of terms. Visually, it has no fixed and definite character of its own, but it is the matrix onto which are projected all forms, colors, and visions from the upper realms. It is often described as a kind of mystical mirror for supernal images, as the gateway through which knowledge is disclosed, as the receptacle of supernal flow from higher emanations, or as the portal through whieh divine light shines down, giving humans access to the divine realm. In the visually privileged world of theosophic Kabbalah, the Shekhinah is the focus of

23 G. Scholem, MqjIJr Trends in Jewish Jtfystici.lm (New York: 1941); idem, On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism (London: 1965); idem, Kabbalah (New York: 1974); idem, Origins qf the Kabbalah (Philadelphia: 1987); M. Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven: 1988). 2l M. Simon, H. Sperling, and P. Levertoff, 17ze 37

The Construction if Gender This celebratory mood is one of the aspects that differentiate the manuscript version of the Sifer Minhagim from the later printed Yiddish editions, which were published in Venice in 1593 and 1600. 38 A comparison with these woodcuts will better clarifY the artist's view"Deyr ist in deyr suka." "Gutr vayn makht freylikh." 36 In a leap year Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar, and Purim Kalan (Litde Purim or Minor Purim) on the 14th and 15th days of the first month of Adar. Purim Kalan involves none of the ritual practices of Purim: the megillah (scroll of Esther) is not read and food is not distributed to the poor. Rather, it is simply an occasion for rejoicing; see Roth (1971), 1395. 37 "Di makhan Purim un esan un trinkan un tantsan." 38 For these books, see Shmeruk (1986) and Shmeruk (1982), 112-175. 34




point towards Jewish ritual. For example, unlike the more restrained drawing of Tishah Be'Av in the manuscript, the woodcuts in the later printed books show men weeping, head in hand, and the Temple engulfed in flames. Similarly, although the earlier Yiddish manuscript lacks an image of dogs chasing a hare, the edition of 1600 repeatedly includes a woodcut of this subject. 39 To cite one final example, although the edition of 1593 includes a funeral scene, this dark theme is avoided in the earlier manuscript. One possible explanation for the more joyous mood in the earlier version is that Italian Jews at the tum of the sixteenth century felt relatively carefree, far from the more severe persecutions of Spain and Germany, and still years before the institution of the ghetto. 4o But it is also clear that the shift in mood between the earlier and later versions of the Sifer Minhagim parallels that in Christian culture, which, according to Elliot Horowitz, "tone[d] down popular celebrations" in the post-Tridentine periodY In addition to the more joyful mood, another feature differentiates the earlier manuscript from the later printed books: the rabbi plays a minimal role. In the printed books, he delivers sermons and marries the bride and groom, but in the earlier manuscript, he performs neither of these functions. This aspect also parallels that of postTridentine Christianity, which sacralized popular culture and strengthened the role of the priest. 42 The last feature that distinguishes the manuscript from the later printed versions is the treatment of gender. One problem in discussing this issue is determining the gender of the figures represented in the manuscript. Because the artist's style is naive and untrained,43 this is no easy task, but gender can be determined through costume and inscription. Women wear a short head cloth or roll their hair into a net; men cover their heads with a flat-topped hat, a closefitting cap, or a tallith. Figures with beards and pants are indisputably male, and only women's clothes show a scooped line just above the breasts. Finally, the caption for many images confirms the gender of the figures. The Yiddish words "er" or "der" indicate a man, and "di" may refer to a woman or group of people. The difficulty in See above for this motif. See Guetta (1994), 70~75; Shulvass (1985), III; Katz (2000). 41 Horowitz (1992), 556. 42 Horowitz (1992), 555~6, 563~4. 43 For positive aspects of his amateur status and its relationship to the Yiddish context of the book, see Wolfthal (2002). 39




determining gender is best exemplified by the figure who performs T ashlikh on the High Holy Days (Fig. 7). Although some scholars state otherwise,44 the figure who enacts the ritual is marked as female. Her gender is constructed by her short head cloth, the curved line above her breasts, and the inscription, "She (di) does T ashlikh." Only rarely is the body helpful in determining gender, but the clearly defined breasts of a figure bathing for Rosh Ha-Shanah indisputably reveal that she is a woman (Fig. 10). The images of the Sqer Minhagim construct an ideal, and part of this ideal is that women are secondary to men. First, men are depicted more frequendy. Whereas the vast majority of images (fifty-four) show only men, a tiny minority (seven) depicts only women. Second, men occupy the more privileged spaces. Not only do they appear more often in synagogue, but even when women are represented there, they are never permitted near the bimah, Torah, and ark, the cabinet where the Torah is stored; these locations are reserved for men. Only men parade with Torahs on Simchat Torah, and only men stand at the bimah on Purim (Figs. I, 5). At Rosh ha-Shanah, men are seated before the ark and hold the Torah, but women are far from these, relegated to a separate page (Figs. 3-4). Although the men face the figure who blows the shofar, the women, relegated to a separate page, see only his back. Furthermore, in this manuscript, men are often constructed as active, women as passive. For example, at Rosh ha-Shanah, a man blows the shofar while women listen, and at Purim, only men hold hammers and groggers; the women's hands are empty (Fig. 1). Similarly, for the Havdalah only men hold the ritual objects and the women are pushed to one side. In the manuscript, a man blesses a woman, but not the reverse, and a man lights the menorah, or Hanukkah candelabra, while a woman observes. On Pesach, or Passover, only the men are deemed worthy to collect and destroy the 'hametz, or leavened bread. 45 Furthermore, the captions reinforce the visual message that in synagogue women listen, whereas men speak and act. In a drawing of Purim, the caption states that the women hear the reading of the megillah; in a scene of Rosh ha-Shanah, the inscription

Ameisonowa (1958); Sed-Rajna and Fellous (1994), 309, fo!' 121r. Several contemporary texts argue that women, due to their laziness, are incapable of performing this task properly; see Adelman (1991 b), 34. Traditionally men were shown performing this task; see Metzger (1973), I, pIs. IV-VI. 44




informs us that they listen to the sound of the shofar (Figs. 1, 3).46 This said, the manuscript nevertheless shows women in a positive light. Although, as we have seen, Christian images denigrate Jewish women by showing them blindfolded, wearing a Jewish badge, or talking during services, the drawings in the Sifer Minhogim do not. Even some Jewish manuscripts denigrate Jewish women; several fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Hebrew-language Hagaddot include an image of the husband pointing to his wife to indicate that she is bitter, like marorY No such motif occurs in the Yiddish manuscript, which idealizes women (Fig. 3). Furthermore, the earlier manuscript shows women participating more fully in rituals than the later Yiddish Jewish books. For example, in the manuscript, the women are down on the main floor for Rosh ha-Shanah, and not hidden by a curtain, screen, or wall (Figs. 3-4). Furthermore, they are as large as the men, they occupy the foreground space, each has an open prayer book, and the only child that is depicted is a girl. In contrast, in the edition of the Stfor Minhagim published in 1593, women do not appear in synagogue at all. Similarly, in the edition of 1600, women peer down through the upper storey windows, distanced from the shofar, the bimah, the ark, and the holy books that are central to the Jewish service (Fig. 11). Whereas nine men are depicted in the foreground, several in full figure, only three women are included, all cut off at bust length and relegated to the background. Only one child is shown, a son. For Purim, the earlier manuscript includes images of women drinking, feasting, dancing, and listening to the reading of the megillah in synagogue (Figs. 1, 9). In addition, they are not isolated on a separate page, but rather included on the same folio and in the same space as the men. In contrast, the later printed books do not include any depictions of women for Purim, but only a group of men in costume. Similarly, in the earlier manuscript, three women appear at the brit milah, and all are major characters (Fig. 6). The mother lies in her bed beside her son; a second woman attends to her, while a third serves food. 48 Neither the mohel nor the male relative who holds

For these captions, see note 18. See Narkiss (1969), pI. 14, fig. 22, pI. 14; Metzger (1973), I, 206-7, figs. 267-8. 48 If we envision the circucmcision as a series of moments rather than one peak instant, then the manuscript shows the lying-in, whereas the printed books show another point in the narrative, the circumcision proper. 46 47



the child during the act of circumcision is clearly indicated at all. In contrast, in the edition of 1593 only men appear in the circumcision scene. In that of 1600, a woman is introduced, but she must stand in the doorway, off to the side, a partial figure, cut off by the frame. Moreover, the manuscript, which includes many more illustrations than the printed books, shows a greater number of rituals performed only by women. A woman lights the Shabbat lamp, and another, holding a round matzah, embodies Pesach in a list of holidays at the end of the manuscript. 49 Furthermore, only a woman counts the days of Omer,50 only a woman assaults Amalek, only a woman bathes on Rosh ha-Shanah. and only a woman performs Tashlikh (Figs. lO).51 In contrast, in the later printed books the only image of a rite performed solely by women is the lighting of the Shabbat lamp. The drawing of the bath for Rosh ha-Shanah is especially unusual (Fig. lO). The figure is marked as a woman by her long hair, down to the middle of her back, and her rounded, pendulous breasts. The bather is immersed in water (indicated by hatched lines), which fills a tub constructed of wooden slats. To the left, a man approaches carrying a small vessel of water. Very few images depict a mik:veh, or ritual bath. 52 Unrelated in form to the tub in the Yiddish manuscript is a mik:veh in a Spanish manuscript of c. 1320-30, which is used to purifY vessels. 53 The best-known image of a mik:veh is an illumination in the Hamburg Miscellany, which shows a woman purifYing herself following menstruation. 54 There the partially immersed, nude woman holds her forearms and lower legs away from the rest of her body, so that they will be thoroughly cleansed by the flowing waters. Situated below a scene of her husband awaiting her in bed, the mik:veh seems to be subterranean and its form suggests that it was 49 She can be identified as a female by her low neckline, short headcloth, and the caption ["She (di) has a matzah"]. 50 Orner is the seven week period between Pesah and Shavuot. Standing on a ground line from which grass seems to grow, she holds an open Orner calendar, which shows the first and second days. Above the caption reads "she blesses Orner." At the top, an object labeled Orner represents another counting aid. 51 The woman stands on a bridge, beneath which flows water. The practice has been related to Micah 7: 19, where sins are tossed to the bottom of the sea. At least one fish is clearly represented ready to eat the crumbs that the woman holds in her raised robe. For this ritual, see n. 22. 52 For the mikveh, see Baskin (forthcoming); S. Cohen (1991), 273-99. I would like to thank Judith Baskin for these references. 53 Metzger (1982), 75, fig. Ill. 54 For this image, see Narkiss (1969) 118; Metzger (1982), 75, fig. 106; The Hebrew Book (1975), pI. 12.



built of stone. None of these elements appears in the image in the Yiddish manuscript. Rather, the woman's more vertical pose and the form of the bath, a sort of tub, closely resemble those in an image on a coffer made in Northern Italy shortly before the manuscript, around 1460~80.55 This scene, which shows the purification following menstruation, is clearly labeled niddah, and appears along with women's two other duties, Hadlakat Ha'Ner, that is the lighting of the Shabbat lamp, and challah, that is the burning or setting aside of a piece of the Sabbath dough as a symbolic donation to the Temple. In short, although a few scenes of the mikueh exist, to my knowledge the image in the Yiddish manuscript is the only representation of the ritual bath for Rosh ha-Shanah that appears in a book produced for a Jewish audience (Fig. 10).56 A woodcut in Pfefferkorn's book, however, does include this custom (Fig. 12). Similar in construction to the earlier German illumination in the Hamburg Miscellany, the mikueh seems subterranean and made of stone. Two nude women bathers, one wearing a head cloth, stand in a more or less vertical position, partially immersed in the water. This image differs from the Jewish one in several critical ways. First, in Pfefferkorn's woodcut, the women place their hands over their genitals. This gesture may have been included for reasons of modesty, but in the end serves to call attention to that area of the body, marking it as shameful, and sexualizing the women. In contrast, in the Yiddish image, only the breasts and hair of the woman are exposed and she makes no attempt to cover herself. Second, the woodcut is accompanied by Pfefferkorn's description of the ritual bath. 57 In contrast, the text accompanying the Yiddish image lists only the proper prayers to be said on Rosh ha-Shanah; it includes no reference to the bath other than the caption. 58 The scribe probably included the scene because the prayers brought the ritual to mind.

55 For the coffer, see Narkiss (1958), 288-95; Grossman (1995), 173; Horowitz (1988), 34; Sabar (1990), Division D, II, 67. 56 This custom is repeatedly mentioned by conversas in Spain; see Melammed (1999), 46, 47, 49, 53, 57, 158. 57 "They enter the bath again and are washed in baptism; they are rubbed down; they employ scrapers [a tool for cleansing]. From every care and worry they are washed free and every body is washed completely clean so that if perchance some sin might still remain, hidden by someone's forgetfulness, it may thus also be cleansed. After these baths they immerse themselves entirely so that no part of the body may appear out of the water, able to be glimpsed. Then they clothe themselves with white garments." I wish to thank Scott Evans for his help with this translation. 58 "Der bad tsu rash hashana."



Third, and most critical to our discussion, Pfefferkorn's woodcut includes a man in the bath. He is on the verge of leaving; he turns away from the women, and is situated at the base of a flight of stairs. His body is not immersed in water, but it once was, since instead of the clothing worn by the other male figures in the woodcut, his torso is draped with a shapeless cloth. 59 In contrast, in the Yiddish manuscript only a woman performs the essential task, bathing, whereas a man, who approaches carrying a small vessel of water, serves a secondary, supporting role. In short, the scene of the bath of Rosh ha-Shanah in the Yiddish manuscript, like the images for Orner, T ashlikh, Shabbat ,?,akhor, and Pesach, focuses on a woman who performs a ritual. In addition to those drawings of rituals that highlight women, others show women performing them on an equal basis with men. The sheer number of such images and their proportion to the total imagery also constitute a major difference from the later printed books of customs. Together women and men bake matzah and fetch water for Pesach; they become engaged and marry. They share meals on Rosh ha-Shanah, Shavuot, and Purim (Fig. 9). Furthermore, Queen Esther is included, along with Moses and Gedaliah, among the representations of positive figures from the Jewish past. 60 An image of prayer is particularly striking in its similar treatment of the man and woman, who stand to either side of a lectern, which displays an open book. The inscription reads "they pray" (di om). Nor is this the only drawing to suggest the idea of female literacy. A woman counts the days of Orner, which are written in Hebrew, and on Rosh ha-Shanah women hold open books (Fig. 3). Another way in which women are shown like men in this manuscript is that they enjoy themselves. As we have seen, they are repeatedly shown eating, drinking, and dancing (Fig. 8-9). Similarly, men as well as women are shown attending to children. It is a man who lifts a small child so he may gain a clearer view of the open Torah on Simchat Torah (Fig. 5). Furthermore, more men than women are shown preparing food; thus only men ready the fish for Rosh Hodesh. He holds an object, perhaps the scraper mentioned in the text. The large, crowned, elegantly dressed woman, labeled "Queen Esther", carries a flower and is accompanied by two women, shown in a smaller size. This probably refers to the episode in which Esther, in the company of two female attendants, invited Ahasuerus to her banquet; see Hirsch and Prince (1964), 235 and Hirsch and Siegfried (1964), 240. 59 60



In summary, most images in the manuscript construct traditional gender roles, with the holy space around the Torah, bimah, and ark reserved for men, and women serving secondary, supporting roles. But women are consistendy portrayed in a positive light, and also appear in a strikingly broad range of roles, in some cases depicted as equal to men, and in a few instances highlighted as the sole performer of a ritual. To what may we attribute these unusual qualities?61 Shalom Sabar and Howard Adelman have shown that in contrast to much of Jewish history, contemporary Italian Jewish women strove to participate fully in a wide range of societal roles. 62 Women used teffilin, the phylacteries traditionally worn by men, they became ritual slaughterers and authors, and a contemporary woman's prayer book, written in Northern Italy in 1480, transformed the morning prayer to read, "Blessed are You ... who made me a woman and not a man."63 Sabar also argued that Italian images depicted women quite differently from Sephardic and Northern European ones. 64 Rather than denigrating women and showing them in a submissive manner, Sabar cited instances when Italian art elevated women. 65 Certainly the Italian provenance of the manuscript helps to explain the unusual features in the representation of gender. Another possible explanation is the book's patronage. Could this manuscript have been commissioned for a woman? Suggestive of a female audience is the positive tone of the images of women, the vernacular language of the text, and the broad range of ritual roles for women. But evidence remains inconclusive on this point. Information is limited concerning works that were made for Jewish women. The coffer, which shows the three required women's duties and is equipped with dials used to inventory household linens, is presumed to have served as a wedding gift for a bride. But unlike the coffer, the Yiddish manuscript does not include all three women's rituals; only the lighting of the Shabbat lamp is depicted. Furthermore, more male rituals than female ones are depicted in the manuscript. Yet, as Eva Frojmovic has demonstrated, this does not necessarily mean 61 Besides the factors explored below, we should also note that the artist of the later printed Yiddish books was probably Christian, since mistakes occurred, such as a seven-branched candelabra for Hanukkah. 62 Adelman (1990), II, 99-106; Sabar (1990), 67. 63 Sabar (1990), 68-69. For women as slaughterers and writers, see Adelman (1991), 133-57. 64 Sabar (1990), 63-70. 65 Sabar (1990), 64.



that the manuscript was created for a man. A 15th-century prayer book from Provence includes a blessing over the zitzit, but also includes an inscription with the blessing to Rebecca cited in Genesis 24:60: "Our sister, be thou the mother of thousands of ten thousands." Frojmovic observes that these words, which are traditionally said to a bride, are inscribed in large golden letters on the frontispiece. For this reason, she concludes that this manuscript served as a wedding gift to a bride. 66 Similar instances of prayer books given to women as wedding gifts are known. 67 Since few women were well versed in Hebrew, most literate women relied on vernacular texts to gain knowledge about Jewish ritua1. 68 This manuscript may also represent an early stage of a phenomenon that Chava Weissler demonstrated existed later on, namely, that the less elite aJewish author was, the higher his view ofwomen.69 Certainly the image of womanhood constructed in this manuscript would not have been every Jew's ideal. Some Italian rabbis, for example, vociferously opposed mixed dancing and the portrayal of nudity (Figs. 8, 9, 10).70 Another reason for the unusual representation of gender is the manuscript's date. Long ago, Joan Kelly suggested that women experienced a loss of rights and freedoms over the course of the Renaissance, and evidence has been mounting ever since to support her thesis. 71 Women's legal and economic rights were abridged, the number of women who worked outside the home decreased dramatically, women were increasingly portrayed in a negative light, and conduct books sought to restrict women's behavior.72 These changes did not apply only to Christian women. Agnes Romer Segal has demonstrated that Yiddish treatises on women's commandments were stricter

Frojmovic (1997), 54 cat. no. 21. Jean Baumgarten is currently compiling a list of all known examples. 68 Adelman notes the "generally poor state of Hebrew knowledge among Italian Jewish women" but also among Italian Jews in general; see (1993), 9-23 (quote on page 23); Adelman (1991 b), 30-31. Baskin concludes that Jewish women generally knew the vernacular, not Hebrew (1991), 42 [41-51]. 69 Weissler (1998), 16. 70 Sabar (1990), 66. 71 Kelly (1987),174-201 (first published in 1976). David Herlihy cites one exception, charismatic female saints; see (1985), 1-22. 72 For a summary of this research, see Wolfthai (1999), 180-81. 66 67



at the end of the 16th century than at the beginning. 73 Similarly, the images in the Yiddish manuscript construct a larger and broader role for women than the illustrations in the books printed almost a century later.

Conclusions In short, the images in the Sifer Minhagim present a radically different view of Jews than those in contemporary Christian images of Jewish ritual. The dravvings in the Yiddish manuscript remember past persecutions of Jews, idealize Jewish customs, show a range of Jews, and deem Christians irrelevant in scenes of worship. But Jews were part of the larger society, and paralleling Christian society, when the earlier Yiddish images are compared to the later ones, women play a broader role, rabbis participate only minimally, and holidays are constructed not only as solemn rituals, but also as joyous celebrations. This manuscript offers one Jew's ideal of Jewish ritual, but certainly not all Jews would have shared this ideal. Here rabbis play a minor role and pleasure is highlighted. Men and women dance together to the raucous music of the bagpipe, shown partially cut off at the right, and a naked woman's uncovered hair and breasts are exposed not only to the gaze of the man in the drawing, but also to the viewer's gaze (Figs. 8, 10). Such elements, which would have been opposed by the more conservative members ~f the Jewish community, may well be a manifestation of the non-elite nature of the manuscript's patronage. Rather than expressing an essential, universal Jewish point of view, in this manuscript Jewish identity is multi-layered and specific: the class is non-elite, the costumes are Italian, the culture is Ashkenazi,74 and the joyous mood represents but a moment in Jewish history. But this is a moment worth exploring. The Sifer Minhagim has been overlooked in large part because its imagery has been deemed low quality. But if we broaden our definition of the type of object that is worthy of study, we have much to learn.

Segal (1986), 47. The script and the way the rituals are represented indicate the Ashkenazic culture. This will be explored more fully in a later publication. 73




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Schreckenberg, H. (1996) The Jews in Christian Art: An Illustrated History (New York: 1996). Sed-Rajna, G. and S. Fellous (1994) us Manuscrits hibreux enluminis des bibliotheques de France (Leuven and Paris: 1994). Segal, A.R. (1986) "Yiddish Works on Women's Commandments in the Sixteenth Century", in Studies in rzddish literature and Folklore, ed. Chava Turniansky (Jerusalem: 1986) 37-59. Shmeruk, C. (1986) The Illustrations in Yiddish Books qf the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: The Texts, the Pictures, and their Audience (Jerusalem: 1986) (Hebrew). - - (1982) "Yiddish Printing Presses in Italy", Italia III (1982) 112-75 (Hebrew). Shulvass, M.A. (1985) The History qf the Jewish People (Chicago: 1985) 3 vols. Sirat, C. (1994) "10 June 1386 Hannah bat Menahem Zion finished her copy of the Sefer Mitzwot Katan", in Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana. Treasures qf Jewish Booklore, ed. A.K. Offenberg, E.G.L. Schrijver and FJ. Hoogewoud, with the collaboration of L. Kiuijer-Poesiat (Amsterdam: 1994) 7. Toaff, A. (1998) Love, Work, Death: Jewish Lift in Medieval Umbria (London: 1998). Weissler, C. (1998) Voices qf the Matriarchs: Listening to the Prqyers qf E-arly Modem Jewish Women (Boston: 1998). Wolfthal, D. (1998) "Women's Voice and Women's Community in Erhard Schon's How Seven Women Complain about their Worthless Husbands", in Attending to Women in the Early Modern Period, ed. A. Seefe and S. Amussen (Cranbury, NJ and London: 1998) 117-54. - - (1999) Images qf Rape: The "Heroic" Tradition and its Alternatives (Cambridge: 1999). - - (2002) "Remembering Amalek and Nebuchadnezzar: Jewish Culture and Symbolic Violence in an Italian Renaissance Yiddish Book of Customs", in Critical Essqys on Art and Wadizre, ed. P. Cuneo (Leiden: 2002) 181-211. Yerushalmi Y.H. (1997) Haggadah and History (Philadelphia: 1997).


if illustrations

1. Anonymous, Reading qf the Megillah, Book of Customs (Sefer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fol. 109r. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 2. Johannes Pfefferkorn, Libellius de Judaica Conftssione (Cologne, 1508), fol. lb. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. 3. Anonymous, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Sefer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fol. 43r. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 4. Anonymous, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Sefer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fol. 42v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 5. Anonymous, Simhat Torah, Book of Customs (Sefer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fol. 92v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 6. Anonymous, Circumcision, Book of Customs (Sefer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fol. 115v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 7. Johannes Pfefferkorn, Libellius de Judaica Co'!ftssione (Cologne, 1508), fol. 5a. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. 8. Anonymous, Wedding Dance, Book of Customs (Sefer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fol. H5r. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France.



9. Anonymous, Purim Parry, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fo!' 121v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 10. Anonymous, Bath for Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fo!' 53v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France. 11. Anonymous, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Sifer Minhagim), Opp. 4° 1004, fo!' 51, Venice, 1600. Printed book. Oxford, Bodleian Library. Credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. 12. Johannes Pfefferkorn, Libellus de Judaica Co'!ftssione (Cologne, 1508), fo!' 6a. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.


Significant similarities exist between the wall-paintings of 17th and 18th-century Polish wooden synagogues and various fonus of medieval art from Germanic regions. In this paper, parallels will be drawn between the synagogue wall-paintings and the art forms of medieval Ashkenazi Jewry, and specifically to Hebrew illuminated manuscripts developed within a context of Christian medieval art. This paper will concentrate on two artistic motifs characteristic of the wall-paintings: the animal figures and the gate or architectural surround. Both of these motifs dominate the artistic expression of the Polish synagogue wall-paintings and both have their origins in the earliest strata of Jewish medieval artistic development. Although this paper will emphasize the importance of medieval Ashkenazi sources for the wall-paintings, it is important to recognize from the outset that other significant influences included Sephardic/ Islamic, Italian/Baroque, Eastern European vernacular, and international decorative arts sources. These diverse sources, which I do not have space to explore in this paper, but which I have analyzed in previous publications, delineate the multi-cultural nature of earlymodern synagogue art from the small-towns of Ashkenazi Jewry.2 The art and architectural research about these wall-paintings is limited for many reasons, but chief among them is the fact that almost all Polish and Eastern European wooden synagogues were destroyed by the Nazis. The surviving, pre-1939 documentation has been analyzed in many studies, but the most significant research has I A more detailed discussion of the themes in this article can be found in my book Resplendent ~nagogue: Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth Century Polish Communiry (Hanover, NH: 2002). 2 The remarkable sophistication and cohesiveness of 17th and 18th century transEuropeanJewish cultural is outlined by J. Israel, European Jewry in the Age qf Mercantili>m, 1550-1750 (Oxford: 1989) 123-236. See also S. Menache, Communications in the Jewish Diaspora (Leiden: 1996) IS-57; Stone (1997) 200-220; and Hundert (1992) 50-68. I have addressed the multi-cultural sources of the wall-paintings and the wooden synagogues in Hubka (1997) and (2000).



been compiled in many works by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka. 3 Although many scholars have also recognized the importance of these wall-paintings, the limited surviving documentation about their historical development has restricted research into the artistic and thematic content of the paintings. In an attempt to penetrate their historical background and symbolism, I will concentrate on the wallpaintings of a single wooden synagogue from the town of Gwozdziec about 50 miles southeast of Lviv, Ukraine. The Gwozdziec Synagogue was one of the most extensively photographed and documented wooden synagogues before its destruction during military action in the First World War (Figs. 1, 2, 3). The Gwozdziec Synagogue was built in stages, perhaps beginning as early as 1640-1675. It was finally completed in 1731 after the remodeling and construction of a tent-like cupola within its towering roof (Fig. 4). 4 The entire interior surface was covered with a vibrant, carpet-like tapestry of inscriptions and decorative wall-paintings (Figs. 5, 6). The paintings on the lower walls, were completed in piecemeal fashion between c. 1680 to 1720 (Fig. 7), while the paintings of the cupola were completed as a unified composition in 1729 (Fig. 8).5 The ceiling was executed by two artists who signed their names: Israel, son of Mordecai and Isaac, son of Judah Leib ha-Cohen, both from the town of Jarychow, in the Lviv region. 6 Their painted compositions, probably reflecting the style of a school or guild of regional painters, filled the wooden interior with a dense colorful texture in a style reminiscent of medieval and vernacular techniques. Although complex and densely composed by contemporary artistic standards, the paintings of the Gwozdziec Synagogue were actually organized into strict geometric and thematic patterns common to many synagogues of its region. 7 The central foci of the 3 Several of the finest works by Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka include: Piechotka (1959), (1989), (1996), and (1999). For a complete listing of their work, see Piechotka (1996) 383-411. 4 The Piechotkas review the major sources used for dating the Gwozdziec Synagogue in Piechotka (1959) 198, (1989) 74, note 38, and (1996) 124-132,208-12. They acknowledge the problems and discrepancies with the 17th century dates for the Gwozdziec wall-paintings given by previous researchers. 5 The wall-paintings in Polish wooden synagogues were recorded and analyzed in the Piechotkas in many works, including (1989), (1996) 112-57, and (1999) 310-15. 6 For background information on the painters, see Piechotka (1989) 69-70; Piechotka (1996) 113-36, and Davidovitch (1968) 53-68. 7 The compositional strategies, artistic techniques and overall imagery for the wall-paintings generally reflect pre-modem techniques similar to medieval artistic



painters' art was a series of ten framed text-panels containing prayers that dominated the lower walls and a cornucopia of animals in bordered medallions ringing the upper walls of the cupola.

Interpretation For over one hundred years, art and architecture historians have struggled to interpret the Polish wooden synagogues and their elaborate wall-paintings. Before the destruction of the synagogues in 1939, these paintings were observed in situ by researchers who emphasized their combination of Jewish artistic traditions and Eastern-European, vernacular aesthetic influences. 8 Most often the wall-paintings were seen as a form of Eastern-European folk art that was practiced by small-town, Jewish communities. Following the Second World War, most scholars interpreted the wall-paintings in two ways. One approach continued to emphasize the influence of regional, non-Jewish precedents, while in the other approach, the paintings were interpreted as an indigenous Jewish art form, often with messianic overtones. Scholars who emphasized regional influences, stressed Eastern-European sources and tended to delimit the religious importance such paintings had for their Jewish communities. In this approach, the wall-paintings were seen as a minor folk art that was a direct product of its Eastern-European cultural context. On the other hand, those who emphasized messianic influences saw the wall-paintings less as a contextually-derived art form and more as a distinctively Jewish art produced by preapproaches even though the wall-paintings were produced in the early 18th century. According to some art historical inteipretations, a dominant compositional and aesthetic strategy for the wall-paintings is horror vacui (fear of emptiness), an interpretation often used to describe examples of medieval decorative arts. This widely accepted inteipretation has the unfortunate consequence of attributing the dense patterns of medieval and pre-modem art to a weakness or insecurity on the part of the artist to mechanically fill or clutter a composition. But to describe the skillful artists of the Gwozdziec Synagogue as being fearful of emptiness would be like inteipreting modem artists as being fearful of complexity or narrative. The dense compositional style of pre-modem artists, such as the Gwozdziec painters, is more sensitively analyzed by E.H. Gombrich, The Sense if Order (Ithaca, NY: 1979) 63-94, and H. Glassie, Art and Life in Bangladesh (Bloomington: 1997) 169-79. Instead of horror vacui, Gombrich suggests that the term amor irifiniti ~ove of infinite) be applied to art forms with dense compositions (80). a Maria and Kazimierz Piechotka have assembled the most complete list of early researchers and their publications in Piechotka (1996) 383-411.



emancipated, Ost Juden, shtetl Jewry. The inspiration for these distinctively Jewish paintings was often attributed to the negative pressures of poverty, pogroms, and exile, which were in turn linked to messianic themes in Judaism. In this second approach, the development of the wall-paintings, especially their extensive use of animal symbolism, was seen as a messianism of desperation, one generated by increasing impoverishment and persecutions. 9 While both approaches provide some insight into the meaning of the wall-paintings, both interpretations are also based on inaccurate assumptions about their meaning and symbolism. While most contemporary scholars have escaped the limitations of these earlier views and recognize the importance ofJewish artistic and religious sources, there is still little agreement on the meaning and symbolism of the wall-paintings. Although general themes related to Jewish art and legends are clearly discernible, the specific contextual meaning of the vast majority of the images in the wall-paintings found at Gwozdziec remains largely unexplained. In an effort to create a more unified account, I will first attempt to establish the theme of Ashkenazi cultural development originating in the communities of medieval Germany underlying the creation of the wall-painting.

Animal Figures

The abundance and visual prominence of animal figures in the prayer hall is, for many observers, the most surprising aspect of the Gwozdziec Synagogue (Figs. 9, 10). If these figures were minor, decorative elements, as some researchers have suggested, they could be dismissed as insignificant background features of the interior. However, the animal figures are not minor decorative elements. Animal scenes cover almost half of the ceiling's surface, and they are clearly the central vehicle of artistic expression used in the overall composition of the cupola. Even on the lower walls, where fewer animals were used, animals figures still play an important supportive role sur-

9 Scholem (1973) 2-5, 20-21, questioned the assoCIatIOn of Jewish messianic movements with eras of persecution or impoverishment, especially associated with the Jewish expulsions from Spain. Recently, Moshe Idel (1998) 8, 103 has further suggested that instead of linking messianism with hopelessness, we might envision "the kindling of hope as a prelude to messianic awareness".



rounding many of the framed prayer panels. Altogether, the interior walls and ceiling of the Gwozdziec Synagogue contained over 80 individual animal figures set into the major panels. There were also numerous animals painted into decorative borders and floral backgrounds. The major animal figures used at Gwozdziec include lions, bears, storks, camels, eagles, birds, snakes, as well as imaginary animals such as griffins, unicorns, and serpents. When considered within the context oflate 17th and early 18th century Eastern Europe, there was no comparable artistic tradition that actively used this kind of dense and visually sophisticated animal imagery. Previous research has not emphasized the unique nature of this animal iconography in relation to regional art forms, both elite and vernacular.lo Consequently, neither its artistic isolation from contextual sources nor its independent development within Jewish sources has been sufficiently acknowledged. Several attempts have been made to catalog and interpret the animals figures according to the commonly accepted canons of Jewish art. These efforts have generally lacked sufficient historical-contextual grounding to move interpretation beyond unconvincing generalizations about the meanings of similar animal imagery found in Jewish folklore and literature. 11 Recently, Marc Epstein has advanced the study of the animal iconography in Jewish art by insisting that some of these animal figures can best be explained when considered in their

10 It has often been uncritically assumed that animal motifs in the synagogue wall-paintings paralleled animal imagery in Eastern European folk art, but this assumption has not been thoroughly investigated. For the primarily decorative usage of animals in Polish and Ukrainian folk art, see J. Grabowski, Sztuka Ludowa: formy i regiony w Polsce (Folk Art: Forms and Regions in Poland) (Warsaw: 1967). The primary liturgical/ethical usage of animal figures in the synagogue wall-paintings is a fundamentally different approach despite similarities in artistic application. II For the earliest attempts to catalog the animal motifs of the wall-paintings, see M. Grunwald, "Anhang zur Ikonographie der Malerei in unseren Holzsynagogen" (Appendix on Iconography of Paintings in Our Wooden Synagogues), in A. Breier, M. Eisler, and M. Grunwald (1934) 13-21, Davidovitch (1968) 20-26, and Piechotka (1989) 68-69. Efforts to analyze animal symbolism are summarized in Piechotka (1989) 87. Many sources offer a generalized interpretation of animal motifs within a broad context of Jewish art, see for example, Kanof (1990) 67-75. Unfortunately, the abundance of animal and plant imagery in Jewish literature is complicated both by the fact that many animals have multiple meanings and that some species have different meanings in different periods and regions. This complexity is discernible in Ginzberg (1947); H.N. Bialik and Y.H. Ravnitzky, eds., Ike Book of Legends: Sefer Ha-Aggadah (New York: 1992), and A.S. Rappoport, Ike Folklore of the Jews (London: 1937).



regional context of Christian symbolism and culture. He has demonstrated the many ways in which minority Jewish communities appropriated such symbols from the dominant Christian culture in order to overtly or covertly tell Jewish stories. For example, Jewish artists frequently appropriated standard Christian images like the unicorn and the elephant and used them to tell Jewish legends and stories to Jewish audiences. 12 Epstein's scholarship emphasizes the need for similar detailed contextual study when interpreting the animal iconography used in the wall-paintings of wooden synagogues like Gwozdziec. There are several factors unique to the historic Ashkenazi experience in Poland that help to explain the existence and dominance of these animal figures. Various sources confirm that even after many centuries of life in Eastern Europe, Polish Jews consistently honored the memory of their medieval, Ashkenazi homeland. 13 Maintaining a traditional system of animal symbolism associated with that homeland is one way they may have honored and preserved that past. More importantly, the maintenance of an archaic system of symbols in the synagogue may have facilitated an internal Jewish dialogue by allowing a symbolic discourse to take place in the public realm beyond the grasp of Christian censors. Perhaps by employing an archaic vocabulary of shared symbols drawn from a revered past, Eastern-European Jews sought to avoid Christian scrutiny and censorship. The animal iconography may, therefore, have served, at least in part, as a vehicle for covert Jewish communication and symbolism. Such a visual strategy would have been especially useful to 17th and 18th-century, Jewish communities living within a counterReformation environment that was saturated by the Baroque symbolism of the Catholic Church. 14 For the Jews of Gwozdziec, powerful 12 See Epstein (1997), and Idem, "The Elephant and the Law: The Medieval Jewish Minority Adapts a Christian Motif", The Art Bulletin 76:3 (1994) 465-478. The problems of understanding the popular meaning of animal figures for a premodern constituency is explored in Michael Camille's discussion of decorative motifs used in Christian medieval illuminated manuscripts, see Mirror in Parchment: The Luttrell Psalter and the Making qf Medieval England (Chicago: 1998) 239-257. 13 On the desire of Polish Jewry to recall and honor their former Ashkenazi homeland, see Ta-Shma (1997); Kanarfogel (2000) 112-113, 125, 251-258, and Marvin Herzog, The Yiddish Language in Northern Poland: Its Geography and History (Bloomington, IN: 1965) 235-246. 14 Jewish symbolic communication have also included appropriated Christian symbols as analyzed in several works by Epstein, including (1993) 33-76, 372-83. For example, Epstein reviews the elaborate symbolism of the hare hunt scenes in Jewish and Christian medieval literature. Hc concludcs (111-114) that although the hare

Figures 1-12 belong to Imaging the Self, by Diane Wolfthal. Figures 1-17 belong to Medieval Themes in the Wall-Paintings of the 17th and 18 th _ Century Polish Wooden Synagogues, by Thomas C. Hubka.

FIGURES 1-12 (WolfthaI)

1. Anonymous, Reading of the Megillah, Book of Customs (Sefer Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fol. 109r. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France.

2. Johannes Pfefferkorn, Libellus de Judaica Confessione (Cologne, 1508), fo1. 1b. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

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4. Anonymous, Rosh H a-Shanah, Book of Customs (Se!er Minhagim), Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fo1. 42v. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France.


3. Anonymous, Rosh Ha-Shanah, Book of Customs (Se!er Minhagim) , Paris, Bib. Nat. Heb. 586, fo1. 43r. Manuscript illumination, ca. 1503. Credit: Bibliotheque nationale de France.

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11. Anonymous, RoshHa-Shanah, Book of Customs (Seier Minhagim) (Venice, 1600), Oxford, Bodleian Library Upp. Credit: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

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12. Johannes Pfefferkorn, Libellus de Judaica Confessione (Cologne, 1508), fo1. 6a. Courtesy of the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

FIGURES 1-17 (Hubka)

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1. East Central Europe, 2000, showing the location of the town of Gwozdziec (author).

2. Exterior, Gwozdziec Synagogue, view looking northwest (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

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3. Plan, Gwozdziec Synagogue, showing ark and bimah (author).

4. Section looking south, Gwozdziec Synagogue, showing tent-like cupola along arkbimah-entrance axis (author).

5. Section, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking west, showing the wall-paintings (author).

6. Section, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking east, showing the wall-paintings (author).

7. Central cupola, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking up toward the peak of the canopy (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

8. West wall, Gwozdziec Synagogue, showing the entrance door and the lattice window above (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

9. Cupola detail, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking southwest, showing animals (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

10. Cupola detail, Gwozdziec Synagogue, looking east, showing animals above the ark (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

11. Drawing of wall-painting, Ostrich looking at eggs in its nest, south ceiling. Note artist's label reads "ostrich" in Hebrew (author).

12. Drawing of wall-painting, Deer turning and looking backward, north and south ceiling (author).

13. Drawing ofw ali-p aint ing, Wol f carr ying

off goat , west wall (aut hor) .

14. Gravestone, Miedzboz, Ukraine, 18th century (Courtesy, Dr. D. Goberman).

15. Painted prayer panels, northeast corner, Gwozdziec Synagogue, showing architectural gates (Courtesy, Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

16. St. Matthew, Ada Gospels, c. 800-815. Trier, Stadtbib1., Cod. 22, fo1. 15v, showing arch and column pattern (Courtesy, George Braziller, Inc.).

17. Worms Mahzor, Worms, Germany, 1272.jerusalem,JNUL ms Heb. 4 781(0)/1, fol. 39r (Courtesy, jewish National and University Library,jerusalem).



Christian symbolism was not a distant theoretical issue, but a constant presence in their daily lives. During the same period in which the ceiling paintings were completed, the neighboring Bernardine Monastery Church and Monastery was conducting an expansion and remodeling project literally next door to the Gwozdziec Synagogue. The realization that Polish Jewry valued the heritage of their former Germanic homelands, despite the persecutions they suffered there, may also answer questions about the sources for the animal iconography used in Polish synagogues. To most researchers, these animal figures seem strangely isolated within the aesthetic context of Eastern-European art. But, these animal figures can also be seen as the logical continuation of late-medieval Ashkenazi artistic traditions, and especially as a direct extension of a decorative arts tradition of animal figures preserved in the surviving medieval illuminated manuscripts in Jewish and Christian cultures. lo The influence of these late-medieval artistic motifs is particularly evident in the use of imaginary animal creatures like unicorns, serpents, and griffins, as well as Jewish eschatological creatures such as the Leviathan, Behemoth, and Ziz in the art work of the Gwozdziec prayer hall. These creatures were used over a long period of artistic development in both Jewish and Christian medieval and late-medieval manuscripts and decorative art. 16 Unfortunately, because so few Jewish medieval artistic sources have survived, it is difficult to trace an aesthetic continuity between Polish and earlier Ashkenazi sources. Despite these difficulties, it is possible to trace the development of medieval artistic motifs and animal imagery in earlier Ashkenazi literary sources. We find an extensive use of visual imagery in the religious writings of the medieval German Pietists (Hasidei Ashkenaz) and especially in the writings of Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (c. 1165-c. 1230). hunt literally conveyed the pursuit of Israel by the nations of the world, in the hands of Jewish artists, the symbolism was turned 'topsy-turvy' to become a sign of hope, and not distress, for Jewish audiences. 15 Characteristics of medieval folk painting similar to Gwozdziec's are analyzed by Gurevich (1985) 35-89. 16 On fantastic creatures, see Epstein (1993) 243-290, 307-332, and D.B. Ruderman, "Unicorns, Great Beasts and the Marvelous Variety of Things in Nature in the Thought of Abraham B. Hananiah Yagel", in .Jewish Thought in the Seventeenth Century, eds. 1. Twersky and B. Septimus (Cambridge, MA: 1987) 343-364. Jewish medieval and Kabbalistic literature provides many sources of fantastic animals, for example, imagery associated with the transmigration of souls (gilgul) involving many types of animal/human combinations, as outlined by Scholem (1991) 197-250, in the chapter "Gilgul: The Transmigration of Souls".



Eleazar of Worms was one of the leading religious figures of the movement of German Pietism. Although most scholars, such as Gershom Scholem, have alluded to his long-term influence on Polish Jewry, Eleazar's writings and the works of his contemporaries, have not been analyzed for their practical influence on Ashkenazi culture in Poland, including its artistic culture.17 In Eleazar of Worms' vast corpus of writings, there is a surprising abundance of vibrant imagery, including animal imagery, that he used as a vehicle for metaphoric expression. Although we have little physical evidence of medieval Ashkenazi visual culture, we can see the extraordinarily richness of the medieval Ashkenazi visual imagination through an examination of Eleazar's literary works. IS In Eleazar's writings, we find interwoven anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images. For example, the well-known multi-leveled symbolism of the nut and the "nut garden" images run through many variations in Eleazar's writings. 19 Alexander Altmann traces the nut image in Eleazar's writings as a central symbol of his mystical vocabulary. In Hokhmath ha-Nqesh (Wisdom qf the Soul), Altmann records a typical example of Eleazar's complex nut imagery: I went down into the nut garden: A nut has four segments and a ridge in its center. Likewise, there arc four camps of Israel and one of the mixed multitude. And the entire subject of the Torah is like the nut ... Even as the nut has an external bitter shell surrounding it, so were the Scroll of Torah and the sword handed down wrapped together ... The kernel is shaped like four double-columns corresponding to the four camps; and the four double columns of the kernel are round about its stalk, and the stalk is in the center. 20 17 The influence of Eleazar of Worms on Polish Jewry is emphasized in Ta-Shma (1997). 18 The fertility of Eleazar's imagery and its subsequent influence in Jewish literature are analyzed by Elliot R. Wolfson in the chapter "The Image of Jacob Engraved Upon the Throne: Further Reflection on the Esoteric Doctrine of the German Pietists", in Wolfson (1995) 1-62. In other works, Wolfson explores themes of visual imagination and imagery in Eleazar's works: see "The l\lystical Significance of Torah Study in German Pietism", in The Jewish Qyarter[y Review 84:1 (1993) 43-77, and "The Face of Jacob in the Moon: Mystical Transformation of an Aggadic Myth", in The Seductiveness qf Jewish Myth, ed. S.D. Breslauer (Albany: 1997) 240-45. On the use of allegory as an important medium in medieval Jewish literature, see F. Talmage, "Apples of Gold: The Inner Meaning of Sacred Texts in Medieval Judaism", in Jewish Spirituali!y: From the Bible to the Middle Ages, ed. A. Green (NY: 1988) 312-55. 19 On the nut imagery used by Eleazar and his school, see J. Dan "Hokhmath Ha-'Egoz, its origin and development", The Journal qf Jewish Studies, 17: 1-2 (1966) 73-82; Dan (1995) 27-60. 20 A. Altmann, "Eleazar of \V'orms' Symbol of the Merkabah", in Studies in Religious Philosophy and Mysticism (Ithaca: 1969) 163.



Perhaps only the .?phar develops a visual imagery of such metaphoric complexity, one that uses plant and animal imagery as a major vehicle for metaphoric expression. The interior of the Gwozdziec Synagogue was painted more than five hundred years after Eleazar's writings, so specific plant and animal images from Eleazar's writings should not be expected to appear on the synagogue's walls. I have emphasized Eleazar's writings, however, to demonstrate the existence of a genre of medieval Jewish writing, rich in naturalistic metaphoric associations, that may have nourished a similar tradition ofJewish visual imagery. It is the importation of this now vanished tradition which may have provided the foundations for the powerful animal iconography in the wall-paintings of the Polish wooden synagogues. In order to support my claim that the animal figures in the Gwozdziec Synagogue were more than merely decorative backgrounds, but were representative of a long tradition of Ashkenazi artistic symbolism, I will analyze four animal figures; the ostrich, the deer, the wolf, and the goat. All these animals are prominently featured in the wall-paintings of the Gwozdziec Synagogue. In each case, I will place these animals in their cultural and historical context as the Gwozdziec congregation first saw them in 1729.

Ostrich In a circular medallion on the ceiling above the entrance to the Gwozdziec Synagogue, an eagle-like bird is shown landing on the top of a tree trunk (Fig. 11). The bird looks directly down at three eggs in its nest. Although the bird looks like an eagle, the artist labeled the figure 'ostrich' in Hebrew. This figure is the only animal in the entire synagogue that was provided with a label. The artist painted other animals very realistically, so the fact that he labeled the painting 'ostrich' probably indicates that the he did not know what an ostrich looked like. Therefore, he probably used the label because he wanted his viewers to see an ostrich looking down at eggs in a nest. 21 Most Northern-European, Polish Jews would never have seen an ostrich, so it is not surprising that the painter did not know how to 21 The painter's intention is indicated by the inscription "ostrich", but there are still other possible meanings for this inscription and its bird image. For example: perhaps the artist wrote ostrich and meant another bird, such as the peacock? There is also the possibility of covert symbolism where the eagle-looking ostrich may have



paint this exotic bird. But most congregants would have been familiar with the term 'ostrich' because it was used in biblical legends and ethical stories of the early-modern period. For example, the story of the ostrich's ability to hatch its own eggs by the power of its vision is told in Zwi Hirsch Kaidanover's popular, Kav ha Yashar (The Honest Measure). Kaidanover writes: Important evidence that the sense of sight can be damaging to oneself and others can be deduced from a bird named the ostrich. While the eggs are laid in front of her, she looks at them, and from her look she makes a hole in the egg, and from every egg a chick comes out.

Kaidanover uses this story as a moral lesson about the importance of looking at good things and refraining from looking at evil things. The power of vision to accomplish good or evil was a popular theme in the ethical literature of the period, one that had a long history in Jewish literature. 22 Kaidanover's book, itself deeply influenced by the ~phar, was one of the most influential conduct or ethical books of the early-modern era. Although it was only one possible source for the ostrich story, in 1731 Kav ha-Yashar was one of the most widely available sources for the community of Gwozdziec. 23 The ostrich and its label on the ceiling of the Gwozdziec Synagogue is a small but significant indicator pointing to the meaning of the animal iconography. The labeling of the ostrich, although an isolated incident, provides specific evidence that the animal symbolism was intended to communicate ethical stories about the power of communicated other meanings to its Jewish audience. For a discussion of the range of possible meaning in similar painting and manuscript art, see Epstein (1997) 1-15. 22 Jewish literature contains many stories, like the story of the ostrich's vision, about the power of the eye to do good or evil. Many of these stories are related to the "evil eye" as analyzed in R. Ulmer, TIe Evil Eye in the Bible and in Rabbinic Literature (Hoboken, :"{J: 1994). Elliot Wolfson describes various esoteric meanings of the ostrich-egg-vision motif in Wo1Eon (1994) 317-325. 23 Kav ha rashar was based on the composition resod rosef written by Kaidanover's teacher Rabbi Yoser. resod rosef remained in manuscript form for a long time and was printed only after Kav ha rashar. Rabbi Yosef writes there: "Looking is a significant thing, and the ostriches' case proves that, for through his looking at eggs which are laid in front of it, it makes a hole in the eggshells, and chicks come out." See resod roseph, R. Yoseph of Dubnow (Shklow, Poland: 1785) Id ch. 2. Another source that mentions this story is Hayim Vital (1780) sec. 8, eh. 1: "We have seen some power in the looking of the eye as we see in the natural sense of the eye, as in the case of the ostrich's. The chick is born through its mother's sustained gaze, without her sitting on the eggs to incubate them, as the rest of the birds do, and that shows that the gaze of the eyes holds real power."



VISIOn to its viewers. Although conclusive proof about the meaning of most of Gwozdziec many animal figures has yet to be found, I believe that the entire animal iconography was intended to communicate similar moral and ethical teachings that reinforced the liturgy within the prayer hall of the synagogue.

Deer The figures of two identical antlered deer were set in circular medallions on the north and south faces of the cupola (Fig. 12). Each deer is turning its head to look backward, while it lifts one hind leg. The image of the deer has been used in Jewish art since antiquity,24 but the image of a deer turning and looking backwards is directly related to a group stories from early modern Ashkenazi literature, stories which were often derived from the -