...::: Art Exhibit :::...
Putting Judaism Back in the Picture:
Toward Healing the Christian/Jewish Divide
The historic rift between Christianity and Judaism will not be healed
until Jews look at Jesus and see a faithful Jew and
Christians look at an orthodox Jew and see Jesus. ~ Bernard Starr
“The Ethnic Cleansing of Judaism in Medieval and Renaissance Art”
This planned exhibit
is an outgrowth of a chapter in my book Jesus Uncensored: Restoring the Authentic Jew
What is meant by ethnic cleansing?
Based on solid evidence, including close study of Medieval and Renaissance artworks displayed at New York's renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art and other venues, it's clear that classical Medieval and Renaissance artworks erased Jesus' Jewish identity and falsified biblical history. These artworks commonly picture Jesus, his family, and disciples as blond, fair skinned, Northern Europeans in palatial settings surrounded by Medieval and Renaissance Christian saints, and anachronistic Christian artifacts. Indeed, most Renaissance depictions of the Holy Family and of Jesus' social world offer no evidence or hint of his Jewish origins. In the absence of Jesus' Jewish identity, contemporizing him and others in physical appearance, attire, and setting serves to exacerbate the false divide between Christians and Jews.
A few exceptions can be found.
For example, Rembrandt used live models-one purportedly a young Sephardic Jew-- to portray a flesh-and-blood Jesus. But these are hardly antidotes for the more typical Christianized representations. In fact, Rembrandt’s portraits are religion neutral; they do not impose props-saints, crucifixes, icons, clerical attire--that suggest a particular religion. Rembrandt‘s paintings, The Head of Christ
, The Supper at Emmaus
, Portrait of an Old Jew
, Portrait of a Young Jew
, and The Jewish Bride
, are typical of his masterful body of portraiture works.
Images are powerful in defining reality
for the viewer. The pervasive Christianization of the Jewish Jesus in classical artworks fed the illusion that Jesus was of a different religion and ethnicity than the others-the Jews-when in fact they were all Semites of the same Jewish faith. To emphasize the false distinction, Jews were depicted in classical artworks as dark and menacing. See Peter Paul Reubens’ Tribute Money (1512) and Albrecht Durer’s sixteenth-century painting Christ Among the Doctors (Pharisees). By adding the charge of “Christ Killers” to this distorted and ugly imagery, Church leaders sought to forge a final separation between Judaism and Christianity.
The divide between the two faiths
remained in effect for centuries and only in recent decades have there been efforts to heal the rift. In 1962, Vatican II initiated by Pope John XXIII, introduced steps to accelerate the reconciliation process. But that easing of tensions is not likely to be accomplished until Christians can begin to look at Jews and see Jesus and Jews are able to look at Jesus and see a dedicated Jew. More recently Pope Francis issued these dramatic statements: “We have discovered that the Jewish people are still for us, the holy root from which Jesus originated” and “A Christian cannot be anti-Semitic. His roots are Jewish.”
The goal of the exhibit
Dr. Bernard Starr on Cycles Radio:
“Jesus Uncensored” & the Art Exhibit
described below is to help close the false divide between Christians and Jews, a divide that artworks helped foster. In doing so, art, perhaps inadvertently, contributed to anti-Semitism by casting the two religions in opposition and conflict, when, in fact, they have a common foundation and heritage.
The format of the exhibit
will be a display of new renditions of some of the most famous Medieval and Renaissance representations of Jesus, his family and followers. These new versions, shown alongside the originals, will put Jesus' Jewish heritage back in the picture and thus show two sides of the Jesus story and legacy: Jesus the dedicated practicing Jew and Jesus the Jew who inspired the creation of a new religion, Christianity. The exhibit is also open to, and will include, other art forms and creations that integrate the two themes of Christianity and Judaism represented by the persona of Jesus.
This planned exhibit received an important boost
when architect and painter Rod Borghese contacted me in response to one of my Huffington Post articles
on the falsification of biblical history in classical artworks. He offered to create new versions of the Christianized paintings. Interestingly, Rod Borghese is descended from the wealthy Italian Borghese banking family, art patrons who commissioned many of the Renaissance paintings of Jesus.
Rod Borghese’s first submission
captures the theme of the exhibit with his rendition of
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s sixteenth-century The Baptism of Christ:
Rod‘s rendition of Murillo‘s painting (right) shows John holding a Torah scroll, a symbol of Judaism that John may very well have held. He certainly never displayed a crucifix. Yet John holding a crucifix is an iconic Renaissance image that appears in painting after painting. (Rod has produced several versions of Murillo's painting).
In Murillo‘s painting (left), John is holding a crucifix staff, which suggests that this is a Christian conversion. But the fact is that Christianity did not exist at the time, and, according to the Gospels, John baptized only Jews, in order to purify them for the expected arrival of the Jewish Messiah. Consider, too, that the cross was a hated symbol in the time of Jesus and John, a reminder of the brutal crucifixion of tens of thousands or more Jews. The cross didn‘t become a Christian symbol until the fourth century, when the Emperor Constantine introduced it as a battle symbol on his military shields and banners.
It has been well established that neither John nor Jesus intended to start a new religion. But that message has not gotten across to the general public, or it has been distorted over the years. That‘s why I wasn‘t entirely surprised that many of the people whom I interviewed for my book insisted that Jesus became a Christian when he was baptized by John the Baptist.
|Pacher (left) pictures the marriage (some say betrothal) of a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl, Mary, to her Jewish carpenter fiancé, Joseph. The official is a high Christian Church official, performing the ceremony in a Romanesque setting.
||Rod Borghese‘s rendition (right) accurately restores a setting that is historically appropriate. Note, though, that a Jewish wedding in first-century Galilee would have been a raucous week-long event in the village streets, preceded by the signing of the marriage contract, the "ketubah."
This exhibit does not suggest that new renditions are in any way better than the originals. Obviously, the Medieval and Renaissance painters were extraordinary artists-and their artworks will stand forever as masterpieces. The primary intention is to address the omissions and misrepresentations of biblical history in the depictions and content, which have had enormous impact in dividing Christianity and Judaism.
Invitation to Artists:
We invite artists to contribute their ideas, suggestions, and renditions for this exhibit that puts Judaism back in the pictue. While we are already receiving invited submissions, the exhibit is still in the developmental stage and welcomes input. As we accumulate a body of work we will frame additional guidelines. At the same time we will explore venues for the exhibit - hopefully a prominent art museum or gallery.]
For inquiries about the exhibit:
e-Mail Us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on: Jesus Uncensord: Restoring the Authentic Jew