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Two Faces of Eve: Polemics and Controversies Viewed Through Pictorial Motifs

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The appearance of the enigmatic woman-headed serpent in both Christian and Jewish art of the thirteenth century can be understood as a reflection of the historical developments of that period. The widespread influence of the Cathar/Albigensian dualistic heresy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries brought about a strong Church reaction, and the Inquisition that eliminated the heresy. The Jews were caught in the middle of this inquisitorial campaign and, in order to defend themselves, had to disassociate themselves from the dualistic ideas expressed by the Kabbalah and at the same time also prove their allegiance to the Old Testament. Their use of particular Christian models in biblical and non-biblical illuminated manuscripts at that point in time may well be a graphic indication of the Jews' precarious position in medieval Christian society.

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