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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 199: Keynote Lecture 2023: Interreligious Networks: Book Art, Material Culture, and Jewish-Christian Cooperation (Language: English)

Monday 3 July 2023, 13.15-14.00

Speaker:Sarit Shalev-Eyni, Department of Art History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The 13th- and 14th-century Jewish communities scattered in various urban localities in Christian Europe were distinctive social entities connected to one another in a network encompassing a shared geo-cultural area. At the same time, economic, social, and cultural networks and forms of entanglement between Jews and their Christian neighbours developed locally. A look at these urban dynamics through the lens of the production of book art and material culture exposes some aspects of significant interreligious cooperation. To exemplify the diversity of this broad phenomenon, cases from two different geo-cultural domains are discussed and compared: the German areas of the Holy Roman Empire and the Iberian Peninsula.
The case of Esslingen is the focus of the first part of my paper. Esslingen, situated on the Neckar River, was an imperial city, having received official city rights under Emperor Frederick II. During the second half of the 13th century, the city witnessed a boom in local construction and artistic activity that peaked around 1300. Extraordinary local material and textual evidence points to different modes of interreligious collaboration in the making of manuscripts, ranging from the sharing of professional frames by Jews and Christians to the use of Christian artists as illuminators of Hebrew manuscripts. Other modes of interreligious networks developed in Castile, where there were no urban commercial book markets. The first school of Hebrew illumination was consolidated in Toledo in parallel with the emergence of book art in the court of Alfonso el Sabio (1252-1284), together with a variety of intellectual activities in which Jews were involved. Due to the close connections between the royal centres of Toledo and Burgos, the new visual tradition moved northward. The close connection to the court is discernible also in monumental architecture, and these two aspects together exposed a dynamic web of contacts, in which artisans, royals, and Jewish officials played a role.