Reclaiming Biblical Heroines

Portrayals of Judith, Esther and the Shulamite in Early Twentieth-Century Jewish Art


Although recently more studies have been devoted to the representations of Biblical heroines in modern European art, less is known about the contribution to the portrayals of Biblical women by modern Jewish artists. This monograph explores why and how heroines of the Scripture: Judith, Esther and the Shulamite received a particular meaning for acculturated Jewish artists originating from the Polish lands in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth century. It convincingly proves that artworks by Maurycy Gottlieb, Wilhem Wachtel, Ephraim Moses Lilien, Maurycy Minkowski, Samuel Hirszenberg and Boris Schatz significantly differed from renderings of contemporary non-Jewish artists, adopting a “Jewish perspective”, creating complex and psychological portrayals of the heroines inspired by Jewish literature and as well as by historical and cultural phenomena of Jewish revival and the cultural Zionism movement.

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Monika Czekanowska-Gutman, Ph.D (2013), University of Warsaw, is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Art History at University of Warsaw, Poland. She has published several articles on Biblical iconography (both from the Old and the New Testament) in modern Jewish art.
List of Illustrations
Note to the Reader

 1 Historical Background
 2 Aims of the Book and the State of the Research
 3 Methodology

1 Judith in Late Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century Jewish Art
 1.1 The Book of Judith
 1.2 Judith in Pre-modern Jewish and Christian Tradition and Art
 1.3 Judith in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Art
 1.4 Celebrating Her Triumph: Judith in Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth-Century Jewish Art

2 The Jewish Queen Esther in Early Twentieth-Century Jewish Art
 2.1 The Book of Esther: Introduction
 2.2 Esther in Pre-modern Jewish and Christian Tradition and Art
 2.3 Jewish and Christian Literary Treatments of the Book of Esther in the Nineteenth Century
 2.4 Esther in Early Twentieth-Century Jewish Art

3 The Shulamite in Early Twentieth-Century Jewish Art
 3.1 The Song of Songs: An Introduction
 3.2 The Shulamite in Jewish and Christian Tradition and Art Up to the Nineteenth Century
 3.4 New Meanings of the Song of Songs in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Jewish and Christian Literature
 3.5 The Ideal Jewish Woman: The Shulamite and The Song of Songs in Jewish Art of the Early Twentieth Century

All interested in modern Jewish studies, Jewish art and Biblical iconography, as well as anyone concerned with art history in general.
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