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Between calvinists and jews: Hebrew script in Rembrandt's art

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Chapter Summary

The phenomenon of Hebrew script in European Christian art is indeed complex and a full account of it has yet to be written. Christian Hebraism, as the new field came to be known, made enormous progress in the first decades of the sixteenth century, when chairs for the study of Hebrew were established in universities throughout Europe. Eventually it included several “Jewish” disciplines (Bible, Talmud, rabbinic, Midrashic, literature, religious philosophy, and Kabbalah), which increased the intellectual interest in Hebrew, the Bible and Judaism among Christian scholars. The visual arts are but one of the cultural areas that benefited from this growth from the early sixteenth century on. This chapter shows not only that Rembrandt’s work reflects the intellectual support provided by the Christian Hebraists of his time, but also that it furnishes us with substantial evidence for the artist’s personal contacts with the Jews of Amsterdam.

Keywords: Christian Hebraism; European Christian art; Hebrew script; Jews; Judaism; Rembrandt



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