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Observations on the Biblical Miniatures in Spanish Haggadot

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This essay discusses the last two centuries of medieval Spanish art, and demonstrates that cooperative relations existed between Christians and Jews who worked either independently or together to create art both for the Church and the Jewish community. Artists of different faiths worked together in ateliers such as that headed by Ferrer Bassa (d. 1348), producing both retablos (altarpieces) as well as Latin and Hebrew manuscripts.

The work of such mixed ateliers is of great significance when considering the genesis ca. 1300 of illuminated haggadot with prefatory biblical cycles and genre scenes that were produced in Spain until ca. 1360. These service books for Passover have always been viewed as a unique phenomenon within the Jewish art of Spain, their origins inexplicable. When the biblical scenes, however, are viewed in the context of contemporaneous Spanish art for the Church, their sources become more transparent.

Affiliations: 1: Jewish Theological Seminary

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