ART 102 Lecture 12: Jewish and Early Christian Art #10

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14 Dec 2016
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Jewish and Early Christian Art #10
November 11
Jewish and Early Christian Art
INTRO
Jews, Christians and Muslims
-three religions from the Near East that dominate the spiritual life of the Western world
today
-all 3 are monotheistic: believe that the same God of Abraham created and rules the
universe and hears the prayers of the faithful
-Judaism and Christianity existed in the Roman Empire
-in 3rd and 2nd centuries, Roman society represented a cosmopolitan religious
character
Judaism: believe God made a covenant (pact) with their ancestors (Hebrews) and that
they are God’s chosen people
-await coming of the savior (the Messiah)
-Jewish people originated from semiotic Hebrews in Canaan (present day Palestine)
along easter edge of Mediterranean
-in the Torah, God promised Abraham Canaan would be homeland for the Jewish
-in 2nd millennium BCE, the prophet Moses, led Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt to
promised land of Canaan
-during journey, God gave him the Ten Commandments, the corner stone of Jewish
Law
-kept in gold-covered wooden box, The Ark of the Covenant
Christianity: believes Jesus of Nazareth was that Messiah
-God took human form in Jesus, preached, suffered execution and then rose from the
dead and ascended to heaven after establishing Christian Church under leadership of
apostles
-God manifests in three persons (God, Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit)
-believed Jesus was the son of God by human mother the Virgin Mary
-performed miracles of healing
-preached love of God and neighbor, the sanctity of justice and forgiveness of sins
and the promise of life after death
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Jewish and Early Christian Art #10
-after ministry on Earth, Jesus was crucified and rose from dead 3 days later
-Christian Bible divided into Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) and New Testament
-Roman Empire govt recognized the religion in 313 and it grew rapid popularity among
well-educated, upper class Romans
-cubicula:
-loculi:
-liturgy: elaborate religious ceremony
-Eucharist: a liturgy known as “Mass”: ritual consumption of Body and Blood of christ,
established at last supper
-Transubstantiation
Islam: accept the Hebrew prophets and Jesus as divinely inspired, believed
Muhammad to be the last and greatest prophet of God (Allah)
-Muhammad was the messenger of God through whom Islam was revealed some 6
centuries after Jesus’ lifetime
Early Jewish Art
-Jewish law forbade worship of idols
-representational art (especially sculpture in the round) was suspect
-artists working for Jewish patrons depicted symbolic and narrative Jewish Subjects
-artists looked to Near Eastern and Classical Greek and Roman art for inspiration
- earliest examples of Jewish art date from Hellenistic and Roman periods
-6 Jewish catacombs (underground cemeteries) on outskirts of Rome, display wall
paintings with Jewish themes
Jewish Art
Menorahs and Ark of the Covenant, 3rd c, Villa Torlonia, Rome
-wall painting in Jewish catacomb
-flanked by two menorahs (seven branched lamps)
-shape derives from ancient Near Eastern Tree of Life, symbolizing for the Jewish
people, the end of exile and the paradise to come
-continuously represented
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Jewish and Early Christian Art #10
-keeps memory of the lost Jewish treasure from the looted First Temple and Second
Temple, alive
Wall with Torah niche and Finding of the baby Moses, 244-75, Syria
-from a house synagogue (a place where Jews gathered for study of the Torha)
-scenes from Hewish history and the story of Moses as recorded in Exodus, unfold in
continuous visual narrative around the room employing Roman tradition of epic
historical representation
Mosaic floor of the Beth Alpha Synagogue, 6th c, Galilee, Israel
-by artists Marianos and Hanina
-3 parts (in order from top, middle, bottom)
-The Mystical Realm: Torah Shrine and ritual objects
-shrine holding Torah, flanked by menorahs and growling lions as a security
system
-The Celestial Realm: The sun, seasons and signs of the Zodiac
-winged personifications of the seasons in each four corners
-circle of 12 zodiac signs in chronological order
-at center of zodiac wheel is representation of sun in a chariot set against might
sky studded with stars and crescent moon
-The Terrestrial Realm: The Sacrifice of Isaac
-Abraham preparing to sacrifice Isaac is stopped by hand of God
-a ram: that will take the place of Isaac as sacrificial offering
-animals are shown in profile
-human beings are shown frontally
Early Christian Art
-early 3rd c: earliest surviving Christian art
-style and imagery derives from Jewish and Roman visual traditions
-syncretism: artists assimilate images from other traditions and give them new
meanings
-images do not have a stable meaning but remind rather than instruct
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