The J. Paul Getty Museum Presents “Art of Three Faiths: a Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an”

LOS ANGELES – The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Ca (USA) recently announced the acquisition of the Rothschild Pentateuch, a manuscript of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah. Its acquisition, coupled with works already in the Museum’s manuscripts collection, allows the Getty to represent the medieval art of illumination in sacred texts from the three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an, on view August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019, showcases three spectacular examples of each of these three: a Christian Bible and a Qur’an will be shown alongside the newly acquired Torah.

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Decorated Text Page (Book of Genesis) from the Rothschild
Pentateuch, France and/or Germany, 1296. Leaf: 10 7/8 x 8 1/4
in. (27.5 x 21 cm). Ms. 116 (2018.43), fol. 32v

            “This landmark acquisition fulfills one of the Museum’s longstanding goals of adding to our collection a Hebrew manuscript that can stand comparison in quality and importance to our finest illuminated manuscripts of other languages and faiths,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It has taken 35 years, but the Rothschild Pentateuch fills this gap more brilliantly than we could ever have imagined. An amazingly rare and beautiful object, richly illuminated with all manner of real and imaginary animals, it also broadens greatly the narratives we are able to tell about life, culture and religion in the Middle Ages. The acquisition will be a highlight of an upcoming exhibition that brings together – for the first time at the Getty – the sacred texts of the three Abrahamic religions, something that I am sure will deepen the experience of these works for many of our visitors, and be a rich subject of study for scholars.”

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Moses Addressing the Israelites (Book of Deuteronomy) from the
Rothschild Pentateuch. Joel ben Simeon, Italy, about 1450–
1500. Leaf: 10 7/8 x 8 1/4 in. (27.5 x 21 cm). Ms. 116
(2018.43), fol. 478

            Judaism, Christianity, and Islam trace their belief in the singular God to a common patriarch, the figure of Abraham. The practitioners of all three religions have been called “people of the book” for their shared belief in the importance of the divine word, rendered in medieval manuscripts in glowing gold and luminous colors on parchment.

            The Torah is the central sacred text of Judaism. In the strictest sense, the word refers to the Pentateuch, which contains the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Illuminated copies of the Hebrew Bible in codex form, rather than Torah scrolls, began to appear in the mid-thirteenth century. In northern Europe, these manuscripts served the needs of members of the Ashkenazi Jewish community who had settled in the area along the Rhine River. Lavishly illustrated Hebrew manuscripts are exceedingly rare, since Jewish artisans were forbidden by law to join painting guilds. Hebrew manuscripts were often written by itinerant Jewish scribes and illuminated by local, sometimes Christian, artists. Illumination of the Hebrew Bible centers on the calligraphic forms of the letters, such as initials, word panels, or decorative frames around blocks of text.

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Menorah of the Tabernacle (Book of Leviticus) from the Rothschild Pentateuch, France and/or Germany, 1296. Leaf: 10 7/8 x 8 1/4 in. (27.5 x 21 cm). Ms. 116 (2018.43), fol. 226v

            ”The three objects on display are exceptionally beautiful artworks that we hope will spark meaningful dialogue among various audiences,” said Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum. “Museums offer more than simply an aesthetic experience. Through exhibitions such as this one, they foster a deeper understanding of history that helps us to reflect on our own shared experiences.”

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Decorated Text Page (Book of Exodus) from the Rothschild Pentateuch, France and/or Germany, 1296. Leaf: 10 7/8 x 8 1/4 in. (27.5 x 21 cm). Ms. 116 (2018.43), fol. 119v

            Among the earliest bound and illuminated codices from the Mediterranean world are copies of the Christian Bible written in Greek, Latin, Syriac, Ge’ez, Armenian, and other languages. The first part of the Christian Bible consists of texts from the Hebrew Bible, referred to since the second century by Christian writers as the Old Testament. Medieval Christians understood it not only as a historical document but also as a body of prophecy that specifically foretold the coming of Christ. The New Testament comprises accounts of Christ’s life, the Gospels, letters to churches or individuals from his disciples, such as apostles Peter and Paul, and a text about the end of time known as Apocalypse or Revelation. Illuminated Bibles—handwritten and printed alike—are among the most enduring forms of Christian book art produced during the Middle Ages.

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Decorated Text Page (Book of Exodus) from the Rothschild Pentateuch, France and/or Germany, 1296. Leaf: 10 7/8 x 8 1/4 in. (27.5 x 21 cm). Ms. 116 (2018.43), fol. 130

            The words that the angel Jibril (Gabriel) recited to the prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah, about 560-632, formed the sacred text of the Qur’an. The opening line, “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful,” a central tenet of Islam that expresses submission to the will of Allah, is repeated in almost every surah or chapter. Muslims transmitted scripture through oral tradition for the first few centuries, and later recorded it through beautiful and ornate calligraphy. Artists incorporated Quranic verses into books, textiles, coins, ceramics, and architecture, demonstrating reverence for the written word. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Islamic word spanned a vast territory, from the Iberian Peninsula to northern and coastal Africa, across the Mediterranean basin, and as far as Central and Eastern Asia.

            Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an is curated by Kristen Collins, Bryan Keene, and Elizabeth Morrison, of the department of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition will be on view August 7, 2018 through February 3, 2019.

Source: Official Pressrelease

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J. Paul Getty Museum Announces Landmark Acquisition of a Medieval Hebrew Manuscript

LOS ANGELES – The J. Paul Getty Museum announced the acquisition of the Rothschild Pentateuch, the most spectacular medieval Hebrew manuscript to become available in more than a century. The acquisition was made possible with the generous support of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.

 

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Menorah of the Tabernacle (Book of Leviticus) from the Rothschild Pentateuch, France and/or Germany, 1296. Leaf: 10 7/8 x 8 1/4 in. (27.5 x 21 cm). Ms. 116 (2018.43), fol. 226v

            “The Rothschild Pentateuch will be the greatest High Medieval Hebrew manuscript in the United States, and one of the most important illuminated Hebrew Bibles of any period,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Its richly illuminated pages – a great rarity in the thirteenth century – make it a work of outstanding quality and importance that represents the pinnacle of artistic achievement of its day. It will be one of the most signal treasures of the Department of Manuscripts and indeed of the Getty Museum overall.”

            Potts adds: “It is especially gratifying that this landmark acquisition was generously supported by our Trustee Ronald S. Lauder and his wife, Jo Carole.”

            Created by an unknown artist and dated 1296, the manuscript’s pages are filled with lively decorative motifs, hybrid animals and humanoid figures, and astonishing examples of micrography–virtuosic displays of tiny calligraphy in elaborate patterns and designs. The vibrant colors and gleaming gold distinguish this manuscript from most medieval Hebrew book production, which followed a largely textual tradition. It stands apart from other medieval examples through the appeal and extent of its illustrated program. The text contains features that indicate it may have been written in France for Jewish emigres who had been expelled from England in 1290. The illumination was likely completed in France or Germany.

            The Pentateuch contains the central sacred text of Judaism–the Torah in the strictest sense–comprising theFive Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The manuscript’s lavish illumination divides the text into sections to be read weekly so that the entire Torah would be read over the course of a year. The opening of each of the five books is celebrated with monumental Hebrew initials intertwined with lively marginal figures and, in one case, a full-page illumination.

            With its seemingly endless variety of illuminated motifs ranging from the imposing to the whimsical, the Rothschild Pentateuch is a prime example of the heights of originality and magnificence that Hebrew illumination achieved and stands as the most extensive illuminated program of any northern European Hebrew Bible to survive from the Middle Ages.

            In a rare deviation from the rest of the manuscript’s aniconic approach, there is one illumination featuring full human figures that was added at a later date. In the second half of the fifteenth century one page was replaced with a new insertion, carefully replicating the text and commentaries. The folio can be identified as the work of Joel ben Simeon, one of the most celebrated Jewish artists known from the period. The replacement miniature represents the sole figural narrative in the Rothschild Pentateuch, but was inspired with the same kind of ingenuity that characterizes the rest of the manuscript.

            “This acquisition allows us to represent the three Abrahamic religions of the period, and for the first time brings a medieval Hebrew illuminated manuscript to the Los Angeles area,” says Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator in the Manuscripts Department. “The cohesiveness of the visual program combined with its unbounded ingenuity shows how medieval artisans approached the complex problem of page design and tackled a project as ambitious as the Rothschild Pentateuch.”

            The Rothschild Pentateuch was created in 1296 perhaps for a patron originally from England. It was carried through the centuries from France or Germany to Italy and Poland, and was eventually acquired by Baroness Edmond de Rothschild at some point before 1920, and then given after World War II to a German-Jewish family, who later settled in Israel, as a part of an exchange agreement.

            Adds Morrison, “The storied voyage of this manuscript follows the history of the Jewish diaspora across time and space. This newest addition to our collection will allow us to present a more inclusive story of the Middle Ages at a time when the Getty is increasingly looking to a global approach in the visual arts.”

            The Rothschild Pentateuch will make its debut at the Getty Center in Art of Three Faiths: A Torah, a Bible, and a Qur’an on view August 7, 2018 to February 3, 2019, an exhibition showcasing for the first time the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The practitioners of these three faiths have been called people of the book for their shared belief in the importance of divine word, rendered in medieval manuscripts in glowing gold and luminous colors on parchment. Three spectacular examples from the Getty’s permanent collection, including a Christian Bible and a Qur’an together with the newly acquired Torah, will be featured in this spotlight show.

“Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World”: exhibit at The J. Paul Getty Museum, LA

LOS ANGELES – Medieval manuscripts preserve stories of faith, romance, and knowledge, but their luxurious illuminations can sometimes reveal hidden prejudices as well. Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World, on view January 30—April 8, 2018 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, presents individual case studies that examine the way art, like language, was used to articulate a rhetoric of exclusion. Whether for reasons of race, class, gender, religious identity or sexual difference, medieval society was far more diverse than is commonly understood, but diversity did not necessarily ensure tolerance. Drawn from the Getty’s permanent collection of illuminated manuscripts, this exhibition explores the obstacles faced by those who were perceived as “others.” For today’s viewer, the vivid images and pervasive subtexts in illuminated manuscripts can serve as stark reminders of the power of rhetoric and the danger of prejudice.

The Crucifixion, probably 1170s. Tempera colors, gold leaf, silver leaf,
The Crucifixion, probably 1170s. Tempera colors, gold leaf, silver leaf, and ink on parchment. Leaf: 28.2 × 18.9 cm (11 1/8 × 7 7/16 in.). Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 64, fol. 86

“With their focus on religious subjects and tales of chivalry, it’s easy to forget that the pages of illuminated manuscripts frequently depicted social biases,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Frequently, these works were a reflection of social norms and reinforced prejudices that were prevalent in society. In some cases these references may be subtle, in other cases not. In either case it is important to understand these works of art as also being social and historical documents that illuminate both the medieval past and the biases and prejudices that we still grapple with today.”

The exhibition begins with an illumination of the Crucifixion in the Getty’s Stammheim Missal, a masterpiece of Romanesque painting. The image is usually understood as a celebration of Christian belief, in which the sacrifice of Christ paved the way for the salvation of humanity, but this exhibition highlights the institutionalized anti-Semitism underlying Christian rhetoric about the old law and the new. Ecclesia, the personification of the Christian Church, is seen at Christ’s right, while the Jewish Synagoga appears on his left. Synagoga points at Christ, glaring, while holding a banderole (representing Old Testament law) that proclaims “cursed be he who hangs on the tree.” Below, two personifications echo and amplify the antithetical positions of these figures. In a roundel below Ecclesia, the fair-skinned Life gazes calmly across the composition at Death, who resembles contemporary (twelfth-century) caricatures of Jews with hooked noses and swarthy complexions.

“As repositories of history and memory, museums reveal much about our shared past, but all too often the stories told from luxury art objects focus on the elite,” explains Kristen Collins, curator of manuscripts and co-curator of the exhibition. “Typically created for the privileged classes, manuscripts can nevertheless provide glimpses of the marginalized and powerless and reflect their tenuous places in society.”

Some medieval writers and artists altered historical content to align with the prevailing morals of the day. Among Alexander the Great’s lovers was the young man Hephaiston and the eunuch Bagoas, but in one medieval manuscript Bagoas was recast as a beautiful woman called Bagoe in order (as the text says) to “avoid a bad example.” Even as a woman, however, Bagoe is still transgressive. In a fifteenth-century Flemish illumination, Bagoe wears luxurious flowing garments like those of the spear-carrying Amazon women in the background, who were renowned for their military prowess and heightened sexual drive. The literary and artistic interpretation of Bagoas/ Bagoe reveals the predominant prejudice against same-sex attraction and, by aligning her with the Amazons, the pervasive wariness toward powerful women.

Cis-gender women and Muslims often fared no better in the medieval world. The Merovingian queen Brunhilde, a powerful heroic figure who led armies and ruled over kingdoms, fell victim to the misogyny of later medieval authors who cast her as the archetypal “nasty woman.” In Giovanni Boccaccio’s story of The Death of Brunhilde, Queen of France (1413-15) he described Brunhilde as ruthless and vengeful, characterizations that were also applied to Saracens, a pejorative medieval term for Muslims. This parallel may explain the turbaned figures in the margins of this manuscript. In medieval art, the “Saracen” became a catch-all category of people to be feared.

Color conveyed a range of meanings in medieval art. Blackness not only signified race and ethnicity, but also symbolized the absence of light, and thus, God. Demons were often rendered in shades of black or dark browns and grays. In Initial Q: David Before Saul (after 1205), color appears to have been used in both ways. In a jealous rage, King Saul draws a sword on the young David. King Saul’s melancholic temperament is conveyed not only through his actions but also by the dark-skinned demon who resembles caricatured representations of Africans, Jews, and Muslims found elsewhere in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, a period of extreme intolerance and violence.

According to Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator of manuscripts and co-curator of the exhibition, “This exhibition strives to make connections between the Middle Ages and the contemporary world, specifically in the way rhetoric is used to construct society’s ‘out groups.’ Attitudes toward Jews and Muslims, the poor, those perceived as sexual or gender deviants, and the foreign peoples beyond European borders can be discerned through caricature and polemical imagery, as well as through marks of erasure and censorship.”

In an attempt to respond to possible concerns from audiences, the exhibition curators also reached out through the Getty blog and Tumblr, inviting members of the public to comment on the exhibition text as it was being drafted. That ongoing conversation can be found on the Getty Iris.

Outcasts: Prejudice & Persecution in the Medieval World is curated by Kristen Collins, curator in the Manuscripts Department and Bryan C. Keene, assistant curator in the Manuscripts Department. The exhibition is on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center from January 30 –April 8, 2018. Related programming includes “Sexuality, Sanctity, and Censorship: A Conversation with Artist Ron Athey,” a discussion about sexuality, gender identity, and censorship in relation to the exhibition and, “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the Middle Ages and Today” a panel discussion featuring Sara Lipton, Hussein Fancy, and Jihad Turk.

Source: official Press release


OUTCASTS: PREJUDICE & PERSECUTION IN THE MEDIEVAL WORLD

January 30–April 18, 2018

at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles, CA

North Pavilion, Plaza Level

Free | No ticket required

Info: www.getty.edu

“Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes” on Exhibit at Paul Getty Museum, LA

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Initial S: A Griffin and Rider, about 1240 – 1250. Creator unknown (German). Tempera colors, gold leaf, and silver leaf on parchment. Leaf: 22.7 x 15.7 cm (8 15/16 x 6 3/16 in.). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig VIII 2, fol 76.

LOS ANGELES – The arts and culture of the Middle Ages were the inheritors of a rich classical tradition. For more than a millennium following the fall of Rome, antiquity was evoked and preserved through visual arts, ceremony, and manuscript culture. Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes, on view January 24 through May 28 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, explores the constant and varied engagement of medieval people with the classical past.

“After the fall of the Roman Empire and the Christianization of Europe, many of the great works of Greek and Latin literature were copied by scribes in monasteries of centers of learning, preserving them for posterity and forming the foundation of medieval scholarship,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “While the rediscovery of Greco-Roman art and literature has come to be associated with the Renaissance in Italy from about 1400 through the 1500s, antiquity was in fact studied and commemorated throughout the preceding Middle Ages. In many ways the classical world never really died, but just receded under layers of subsequent culture. For authors and artists alike, the process of historical remembering in the centuries before the Renaissance often involved embellishment or invention, as stories of ancient rulers and mythological heroes were frequently employed and adapted for inclusion in Christian texts.”

Bringing together objects from the Getty Museum’s antiquities collection with works from the manuscripts collection, the exhibition is divided into three sections. Section one explores the fluidity of artistic forms across antiquity and the Middle Ages. The second focuses on the classical knowledge base that was preserved by and transmitted through the work of medieval scribes and artisans. The last section explores medieval understanding of, and approaches to, the past.

The Language of Forms
“Whether through quotation, emulation, transformation, or invention, the medieval world drew upon the classical, exploiting its expressive visual language,” explains Kristen Collins, co-curator of the exhibition. The styles and motifs of classical art provided a rich vocabulary for medieval artists and patrons. The formal characteristics of ancient Latin script were often employed to imbue religious texts with the authority of imperial Rome. Winged victories, as shown in Earrings with Nike (225-175 BC), were supernatural beings in ancient art. The personification of victory—known as Nike to the Greeks, Victoria to the Romans—was among the most frequently depicted, appearing in a variety of media and contexts. With the transition of the pagan world to the Christian, the goddess was adapted and transformed, into both an angel and a pagan idol. At times both depictions appear together in the same object.

Transmission of Knowledge
The study of medicine, drawn largely from classical sources, flourished in medieval universities. Latin translations of Greek and Arabic commentaries on other ancient medical texts shaped the discipline throughout the Middle Ages. Medieval physicians saw the body as a microcosm of the physical universe. Their practice sought to counteract imbalances in the four “humors” caused by natural phenomena such as the position of celestial bodies, the earth’s climate, and the ocean’s tides.

History and Invention
“During the Middle Ages, history was seen as the unfolding of God’s will over time, and great effort was made to align ancient historical accounts with the Bible,” says Kenneth Lapatin, co-curator of the exhibition. “Medieval authors mined classical texts, which were seen not only as essential documents of the past but also as ideal tools for learning the grammar and rhetoric of Latin.”

In their compendia of classical lore, medieval illuminators often updated the appearances and settings of ancient figures, representing them in contemporary costumes and architectural contexts. Such artistic devices blurred the lines between antiquity and the medieval present, demonstrating how people in the Middle Ages viewed their culture as an outgrowth of the Greco-Roman past. Within a single illuminated letter “P” (about 1300), Alexander the Great holds baited sticks as he is lifted heavenward by two griffins – ferocious composite creatures, part eagle and part lion. While the author of the accompanying text omitted this fantastical episode from the Alexander legend, the artist drew upon an established visual tradition.

Remembering Antiquity: The Ancient World Through Medieval Eyes will be on view January 24 –May 21, 2017, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Kristen Collins, curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Kenneth Lapatin, curator of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and former curatorial assistant in Manuscripts, Rheagan Martin. Related programming will include gallery talks and more. Additional information can be found at getty.edu/360.

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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

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