Page 188 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
will surely demonstrate how the styles used for Jewish purposes
are always adopted from the dominant styles of the contemporary
non-Jewish society, and it w ill take account of the fact that
Jewish iconography, though rooted in the contemporary non-
Jewish society, expresses the collective Jewish thought, feeling
and symbolism of a specific Jewish community. Th is diversity
of thought as expressed in the art of the many Jewish communi-
ties needs to be clearly delineated, so that at long last we may
abandon the non-existent undifferentiated unity so commonly
stressed in books. Such a history of the arts and Judaism would
for the most part stop with the 19th century, for un til that time
all art sponsored and produced by Jews was inextricably bound
up with specific Jewish communities. Since the 19th century,
however, emancipation has enabled the Jew to free himself from
the jurisdiction of the medieval-type Jewish community, and
it has allowed him gradually to identify with national commit-
ments. Such identification, o f course, often led to a severance
of ties with the medieval-type Jewish community, with the result
that the artist no longer expressed the collective beliefs and
symbols o f his specific Jewish community. T h e incidental appear-
ance of Jewish subject matter in the works o f some artists repre-
sents solely the expression of an individual's feelings and no
longer those shared by an entire community.
Until a study of this sort makes its appearance, the book
Jew ish A r t
, edited by Cecil Roth with contributions from 19
authors, must serve as an introduction to the Jewish participa-
tion in the arts over 3000 years. The kind of Jewish art history
I advocate naturally presupposes prior studies on various aspects
of Jewish involvement in the arts at different periods o f Jewish
history. Some of these studies have already been undertaken in
the last ten years.
Especially rich has been the harvest of research on early Chris-
tian and Byzantine synagogal art and on illum inated Hebrew
manuscripts, synagogue architecture and ceremonial objects from
Christian Western Europe. Most neglected still is the Jewish
artistic participation in the Muslim world. Only one book has
appeared on this subject,
L ’a r t ju i f en terre d e VIslam
A. Kundig, 1959), written by the late Leo A. Mayer, an English
version of which is to be found in R o th ’s
Jew ish A r t .
T h e Mayer
book constitutes a bare sketch of Jewish artistic activity in the
Muslim world and only helps to emphasize what has still to be
explored in detail, namely, the ceremonial objects, synagogues,
and illum inated manuscripts produced for and by Jews in the
Muslim world.
Since Biblical archaeology is a vast and separate discipline
and most of its findings do not rightly belong w ithin the con-
fines of Jewish art, no detailed discussion of such books is planned