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Chapter 31 - Material Culture and Art

from Part III - Spiritual and Intellectual History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2018

Robert Chazan
Affiliation:
New York University
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Summary

This chapter surveys medieval works of art made, commissioned, and consumed by Jews in the Middle East and Europe. Instead of presenting the material along a timeline, it approaches the material thematically and discusses synagogues and liturgical works within communal contexts, works of art (such as Passover haggadot) used within the private sphere, illuminated Bible used by scholars. It concludes with a section about scribes and artists. The main focus of the chapter is on the observation that Jews shared the visual cultures of the societies they dwelled within and, at the same time, established a variety of patterns to cope with these cultures, to partake in them, to avoid their religious messages and to create their own pictorial idioms. It discusses issues of patronage, religious mentality, reception, the manifold functions of works of art, and cultural interaction. The remains of the art and architecture of the Jewish minorities are embedded in the social and cultural history of those who produced and used them and brings to life aspects of their religious identities of which the written word offers but a partial image.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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