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Immediately after the Holocaust, scores of Jewish survivors created graphic narratives, in word and image, about their individual and collective wartime experiences under Nazi oppression. This essay will make a case for these early postwar works as a “minor art.” “Minor” captures the material characteristics of this low-capital, low-circulation printed matter: slight in weight, small in size, modest in price, and ephemeral in quality. It also describes their “poor” images that pull, in form and structure, from popular culture (comics, cartoons, illustrated books) on the margins of modernist concerns (composite image-texts relying on narrative storytelling). Borrowing from Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of “minor literature” as a deterritorialized, political, collective utterance, I argue that disciplinary notions of “art” and “testimony” have prevented us from seeing this “minor art” and recognizing how its vernacular, amateur art practices allowed survivors to reconstruct the past, remember communities and identities erased, and reclaim their own narratives of persecution. Created by a minority (a decimated Jewish community) working on the peripheries of the art world, they tell a Jewish story using Jewish frames of reference to create a community outside of majoritarian culture. What is at stake in them is not only a poetics of recollection but a politics of representation: of seeing with Jews as a critical act by dominated persons against the dominant, antifascist master narrative of WWII and the primary media of its dissemination, photography and film. Ultimately, this “minor art” can have major implications for both how we understand the crucial first decade of survivor initiatives and how we write our histories of Jewish art.

In: IMAGES
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While numerous scholars have analyzed the influence of immigration on Jewish visual culture, few have focused on the Hungarian-Israeli scene. This article seeks to resolve some of the lacunae surrounding expressions of Hungarian immigrant experiences in Israeli art by analyzing the Annunciation theme in Hedi Tarjan’s series Homage to Fra Angelico, which was painted in the 1980s and the 2000s. A woman artist with a complex Christian-Jewish identity, Tarjan expressed her cross-cultural and interfaith experiences in her paintings and can be regarded as a “Jewish Diasporist” in the sense elaborated in American artist R. B. Kitaj’s manifestos. The article concludes by arguing that Tarjan, as a Jewish artist who emigrated from Hungary to Israel, faced unique professional, cultural, and religious challenges.

In: IMAGES

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Books are living forms that must be understood not simply as they were at the moment and place of their creation, but also as they changed through time and space. This article focuses on a little-known medieval mahzor from the Rhineland, currently in Houston, which has been published in only three catalogue entries. It begins by introducing the manuscript and then goes on to focus on what is perhaps its most remarkable aspect: its extensive mutilation. After examining how and why other medieval Jewish manuscripts were intentionally altered, this essay explores the various campaigns that modified the Houston Mahzor and what can be known about the manuscript’s missing texts and images. Reimagining the Mahzor as it once was reveals a richly illuminated manuscript with strikingly unusual images. Studying how it was intentionally altered over time uncovers a range of reactions from its varied audience, Jewish and Christian, German and Italian, medieval and modern.

In: IMAGES

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This essay will showcase a process of contextualizing a Jewish ritual object through synthesizing a range of sources. The object at the center of this research is the chair in the context of the circumcision ceremony in medieval Ashkenaz and the early modern Ashkenazi diaspora. The two ceremonial chairs are designated, respectively, for the ba′al brit, who holds the infant, and Elijah the Prophet, whose association with circumcision will be explored. The essay will present the central themes that medieval Ashkenazi Jews wished to highlight during the ceremony and suggest how these themes were reflected and communicated in the affordances of the chair.

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In two liturgical Pentateuchs from Northern Europe from around 1300, images of sirens appear unexpectedly and in ways that vary from common siren iconography. Perhaps these human–animal hybrids, or mixta, in their elusive sexuality and transgressive boundary-crossing articulate Jewish cultural concerns with gender politics. Feminist bestiary studies and feminist studies of vocality (the siren’s song) provide new insights into medieval gender politics and its subversions.

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In: IMAGES
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This article will deal with two folios from Ms. Vatican ebr. 14, a Pentateuch (with haftarot and megillot) written by Elijah ben Berekhiah ha-Nakdan in 1239. Both folios display a seven-branched candelabrum (menorah). The one on folio 104r is depicted lying on its side, while the one on folio 155v is standing upright. Both lampstands consist of masoretic material in micrographic script. The article will address both the form and content of the masorah figurata illustrations and relate them to Elijah’s overall pedagogical concept of teaching the Bible with a special emphasis on Hebrew language, grammar, and masorah. In addition, it will address the relationship between biblical text and its visualization, and it will ask whether the concept of peshaṭ exegesis was a necessary tool for visualizing biblical objects.

In: IMAGES

Abstract

This article nuances the dominant historiographical narrative of the Jews’ hat as an allegedly pejorative iconographic marker of Jewish men in medieval Ashkenaz. Considering the perceptions and functions of the Jews’ hat, this article will offer new conclusions regarding if, when, and by whom it was worn. Drawing from a variety of sources in Hebrew, Latin, and vernacular languages, and on visual sources, the overall argument presented here is that the Jews’ hat was not everyday attire and that it was not likely owned by all Jewish men. Rather, featuring among the variety of hats Jewish men wore based on their socioeconomic or religious status in their communities from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, the Jews’ hat was a costume worn by those of more common status and on formal occasions when distinguishing oneself according to any urban group was required, such as during urban processions, oath-taking, public forms of punishment, or matters of civic administration.

In: IMAGES