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The artless Jew : medieval and modern affirmations and by Kalman P. Bland

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By Kalman P. Bland

Conventional knowledge holds that Judaism is detached or perhaps suspiciously adverse to the visible arts as a result of moment Commandment's prohibition on growing "graven images," the dictates of monotheism, and historic happenstance. This highbrow heritage of medieval and glossy Jewish attitudes towards artwork and illustration overturns the fashionable assumption of Jewish iconophobia that denies to Jewish tradition a visible dimension.

Kalman Bland synthesizes facts from medieval Jewish philosophy, mysticism, poetry, biblical commentaries, travelogues, and legislation, concluding that premodern Jewish intellectuals held a good, liberal knowing of the second one Commandment and did, in truth, articulate a undeniable Jewish aesthetic. He attracts in this perception to contemplate smooth rules of Jewish paintings, revealing how they're inextricably associated with various notions approximately sleek Jewish id which are themselves entwined with arguments over Zionism, integration, and anti-Semitism.

Through its use of the prior to light up the current and its research of ways the current informs our readings of the prior, this publication establishes a brand new overview of Jewish aesthetic idea rooted in historic research. Authoritative and unique in its identity of genuine Jewish traditions of portray, sculpture, and structure, this quantity will ripple the waters of numerous disciplines, together with Jewish stories, paintings heritage, medieval and glossy heritage, and philosophy.

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Extra info for The artless Jew : medieval and modern affirmations and denials of the visual

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A “professor of racial hygiene” at the University of Munich typically asked his German readers in 1923 and his English readers in 1931 to “think of the faces of the more refined Jews of southern Europe” in order “to picture . . ” He asked them to consider the statistically significant, genetically transmitted propensity of the Jews to suffer from blindness, deafness, skin disease, flatfeet, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, sterility, myomata, Parkinson’s disease, lumbago, feeblemindedness, melancholia, schizophrenia, and—like women—all forms of hysteria, especially hypochondria and nosophobia.

The philosophically motivated divergence between Rabbi Kook and German Jewish intellectuals also stemmed from economic considerations. Rabbi Kook was preoccupied with the practical question of justifying a 36 CHAPTER ONE form of manual labor: Are Jews religiously permitted to engage in the commercial production of visual art not intended for ritual use or synagogue decoration? He was quick to seize upon the legitimate financial rewards to be gained from encouraging artists and craftsmen to do their secular work.

Instead, Rabbi Kook credited the law for legitimizing visual art and compelling Jews to produce it. He enthusiastically acknowledged the salutary powers of the visual arts. The German Jewish intellectuals tended to suspect that visual art contributes little to the moral enhancement of life. Rabbi Kook also differed from Chagall and the German Jewish intellectuals by strictly forbidding the display or enjoyment of all pagan and Christian art, regardless of setting, whether in situ or within the walls of a museum.

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