Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Renaissance: Lethal anti-Judaism organizes

If anti-Judaism and physical assaults on the Jews during the Middle Ages was mostly local and disorganized, inspired by theology and fed by fear and superstition, with the Renaissance and the spread of the Inquisition (Catholic southern Europe) and Reformation (Protestant northern Europe) physical anti-Judasim grew increasingly organized and leadership driven. Luther, called "the Great Reformer," attacked the Jews on religious as well as secular grounds. Under his inspiration and guidance Jews came to be seen increasingly as "Other," as alien, threatening both Christians as individuals, and Christendom entire.

Within the plastic arts, particularly in the north, Jews took on a more sinister image, grotesque caricatures, of a people delighting in tormenting, in murdering the Christian messiah. While the insidious and hateful actions attributed to Jews was also starkly represented in southern painting (Paolo Uccello's Miracle of the Profaned Host, below ), in the works of Dürer and Grünewald (below), of Cranach, Bosch, and Breugel (see Painters of the Renaissance page) Jews were increasingly represented as caricatures, cartoon-like, filled with mirth and devoid of humanity; Jews were represented as the literal children of the devil described by Luther and his theological church predecessors.

Panels one and five from Paolo Uccello's Miracle of the Profaned Host. A Jew desribed as a "moneylender" is represented as cooking the host (holy bread representing the body of Jesus), which emanates blood (see cauldron and under the door). The Jew's wife with unborn child, and the couple's two children look on in fear. the second panel shows the family being burned at the stake for the "crime."

Matthias Grünewald, The Mocking of Christ, c.1503

Albrecht Dürer, Christ Among the Doctors (Pharisees), 1506

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