"This collection of thirteen essays is provocative in the best sense of the term: forcing readers to question what they know by probing the litany, raising new interpretations, and inciting rethinking. Neither the editors nor the contributors to Judaism and Christian Art propose an uncomplicated discussion of the too-often-asked query "is there such a thing as Jewish art?" or a straightforward iconography of Jews and Judaism in Christian art."—ChoiceChristian cultures across the centuries have invoked Judaism in order to debate, represent, and contain the dangers presented by the sensual nature of art. By engaging Judaism, both real and imagined, they explored and expanded the perils and possibilities for Christian representation of the material world.
"Judaism and Christian Art . . . may very well qualify as one of the best recently published studies on exchanges between Christian art and Jewish culture."—Renaissance Quarterly
"Kessler and Nirenberg have here coalesced into a coherent whole multiple essays concerning the treatment of Jews and Judaism in Christian art. The essays move chronologically in a way that encourages readers to linger with each author and engage deeply with every piece of art they encounter."—Religious Studies Review
"An impressive collection displaying considerable erudition and argumentative skills. Judaism and Christian Art makes a stimulating and useful contribution to scholarship."—Walter Cahn, Yale University
The thirteen essays in Judaism and Christian Art reveal that Christian art has always defined itself through the figures of Judaism that it produces. From its beginnings, Christianity confronted a host of questions about visual representation. Should Christians make art, or does attention to the beautiful works of human hands constitute a misplaced emphasis on the things of this world or, worse, a form of idolatry ("Thou shalt make no graven image")? And if art is allowed, upon what styles, motifs, and symbols should it draw? Christian artists, theologians, and philosophers answered these questions and many others by thinking about and representing the relationship of Christianity to Judaism. This volume is the first dedicated to the long history, from the catacombs to colonialism but with special emphasis on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, of the ways in which Christian art deployed cohorts of "Jews"—more figurative than real—in order to conquer, defend, and explore its own territory.
Herbert L. Kessler is Professor of the History of Art at the Johns Hopkins University and author of Spiritual Seeing: Picturing God's Invisibility in Medieval Art, also published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.
David Nirenberg is Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and Department of History at the University of Chicago. He is author of Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages and Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition.