DARK MIRROR by Sara Lipton


The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography
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Lipton (History/SUNY Stony Brook; Images of Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible moralisée, 1999) sets out to show that negative images of Jews first appeared as early as the 12th century, long before the generally accepted 15th-century beginnings.

The author’s comprehensive research took her to illuminated Bibles, books of hours, art, architecture and even a doodle on an exchequer receipt. She notes that before A.D. 1000, there was little mention of the Jewish people. The rise of the Holy Roman Empire, large-scale building projects and an explosion of artistic creativity were the initial impetus for recognition. As scholars began to explore nature and science and classify human differences, and as the church recognized Christ’s humanity, images emerged to connote good and evil personages. In the beginning, Jews were the prophets, then witnesses to the life of Christ. Judaism, as represented by Synagoga, at first was blind, indicating that Jews did not see the divinity of Christ, nor his fulfillment of the prophecies. As times changed, Synagoga was depicted as seeing but turned away—to the left, or sinister, side—to indicate that Jews refused to see. The pointed hat, scroll and beard were used to connote rank, knowledge and authority, particularly in those from the East, and the appearances of demonic features, hooked noses, shaggy beards and brutish expressions were subtle and insidious in their emergence. Even until the first half of the 13th century, clerical authorities said that Jews were indistinguishable from all others. A 14th-century illustrated prayer book is the first instance of the caricatured image by then widely recognized as the visage of a Jew.

With plenty of illustrations to bolster the text, Lipton has assembled remarkably detailed evidence of the growth of the anti-Jewish images found in the expansion of learning at the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0805079104
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2014


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