Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Review of Boehm and Holcomb (eds.), Jerusalem 1000-1400

BOOK REVIEW: 400 Years of Jerusalem Culture (RUBY NAMDAR, New York Times).
JERUSALEM: 1000-1400
Every People Under Heaven

Edited by Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb
Illustrated. 352 pp. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. $75.
The book under review deals with a era later than PaleoJudaica's normal period of interest, but the interest of that later era in earlier Jewish history is interesting in itself.
The Metropolitan Museum’s much discussed new exhibition, “Jerusalem, 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven,” as well as a beautiful catalog now offered to the public, does not necessarily emphasize the above-mentioned conflict. But it does celebrate the aesthetic richness that ensued from it by presenting the viewer with some of the most magnificent and meaningful artifacts. It is the city’s story told through its material culture. Years of intensive curatorial efforts have yielded a large number of rare objects, some of which have never before been allowed to be taken out of their showcases, much less be shipped overseas and displayed abroad. Among the most exciting are a rare collection of gold coins dated back to the 11th century; the marvelously intricate gold filigree jewelry, made in the Islamic tradition; large jewel-encrusted crosses and relic-boxes, made in the European tradition; and European-Jewish jewelry depicting the long lost temple destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. Of special interest are the rare manuscripts that seem to receive special attention in the exhibition and the catalog: Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Latin and Persian texts, often lavishly ornamented, gilded and painted with vivid colorful images of the holy city. These books were the prized possession of aristocratic Jewish, Muslim and Christian families who used them as a way to show off their wealth and power at the same time as their piety and devotion.