New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) recently acquired a spectacular illuminated Hebrew Bible, also known as a Tanakh, for an undisclosed sum.
The book was illustrated and bound in the Castile region of Spain during the early 14th century.
Spain was home to a vibrant Jewish community during the Middle Ages
This historic area in the country’s north was home to a large and flourishing Jewish community.
However, when this Bible was printed times were getting tough.
A series of pogroms swept Spain in the 1300s, killing many Jews and leading others to flee. The small community that remained would be officially expelled in 1492.
This Tanakh is one of only three such survivors from 14th century Spain.
There’s a clear Islamic influence to the illuminations, a result of Spain’s unique religious make-up.
Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in close proximity, which was highly unusual in the medieval era. While peaceful at times, tension between communities regularly spilled over into violence.
Melanie Holcomb, an expert from New York’s MoMA, said: “The Jewish communities of medieval Spain set a high standard for the arts.
“This beautiful and rare Bible celebrates the sacred Hebrew text, and remarkably embraces both Christian and Islamic aesthetic sensibilities.
“It will completely transform our display of the art of medieval Spain at the Cloisters, importantly reminding us that this was a vibrant, heterogeneous society.”
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