Jewish Art and Visual Culture Research
Chief Researcher: Dr. Naomi Feuchtwanger-Sarig
About the Project
The underlying basis of this research is visual testimony, to be investigated as a historical document and corroborated with textual evidence. The research addresses the technical, iconographic and stylistic aspects of each object. In order to place the object within the context of its era and culture, layers of research from the Halacha and the Minhag are added, as well as comparison to textual sources from the non-Jewish world that are relevant to the topic.
The Invention of a Textual and Visual Printed Tradition: The Sefer Minhagim by Shimeon ha-Levi Guenzburg
In the past year, Dr. Feuchtwanger-Sarig dedicated her research to reviewing the sources of the woodcuts in Sefer Ha-Minhagim. In the first stage she sorted the various illustrations by style, which provided a clear indication that the printer used printing plates that were made up of different cultural elements. The various sizes of the illustrations, the compression of the elements making up the image, the density of the hatching within them, the relation to the background and subtleties in the characteristics of dress exhibited by the figures portrayed all bear witness to this. In addition, cracks or even breaks in the uniformity of the plates or in their frames are characteristic of the printing of decorative typographic material being put to secondary use.
Thus far, the immediate source of these plates depicting the signs of the zodiac and the labors of the month has been identified as a haggadah, which was printed several decades beforehand in the Mantua Haggadah. However, it is likely that they were not cut for the purpose of the haggadah but rather were used by the printer who had purchased or ordered them for an entirely different purpose. The initial decorative letters were used widely throughout many of the printing houses in Italy – probably also in other locations before that – and it is difficult to establish if they originated in one printing house or another. In contract, the minhagim plates reflect a decidedly German style particular to the second half of the sixteenth century, and the customs depicted therein are closer to those of Ashkenaz than of Italy. This is in keeping with the primarily Ashkenazi target audience of the composition, and it establishes Venice as the printer’s preferred location because it was such a significant center of printing during that period.
June 25–27, 2018
Dr. Feuchtwanger-Sarig represented the Center at an international conference held at Bar-Ilan University on the topic “Art Patronage and Jewish Culture”, where she delivered a lecture entitled “Greifswald Museum – Johann Friedrich Mayer and the First Jewish Museum: Vision, Patronage, and Mission”.
Dr. Feuchtwanger-Sarig represented the Center at an international research workshop held at Erfurt University within the framework of the research project “Dynamics of Ritual Practices in Judaism Pluralistic Contexts from Antiquity to the Present”. Dr. Feuchtwanger-Sarig delivered a lecture entitled “Jewish Kattundruckerei: Torah Binders from Rudolstadt”.
Thy Father’s Instruction: Reading the Nuremberg Miscellany as Jewish Cultural History, De Gruyter Publishing House; expected date of publication: February 2020.
Minhagim: Custom and Practice in Jewish Life. A selection of papers based on the international conference of the same name held 13–15 May, 2012 at Tel Aviv University, which will be published in December 2019 by De Gruyter Publishing House. Dr. Naomi Feuchtwanger-Sarig is a member of the editorial board of the volume.
Papers Accepted for Publication
“The Lobed Maẓẓot: A Trialogue of Image, Text and Custom”, in: Yitzhak Lifshitz et al. (eds.), Minhagim: Custom and Practice in Jewish Life, Berlin: De Gruyter; December 2019.
Research in Progress
The Invention of a Textual and Visual Printed Tradition: The Minhogim Bukh by Shimeon haLevi Günzburg (Venice: Giovanni di Gara, 1593).
“Myrrh or Moor: The Iconography of ‘the Other’ in the Havdalah”, prepared upon request of Ars Judaica.
“Jewish Kattundruckerei: Torah Binders from Rudolstadt”, prepared for a publication of the Max-Weber-Kolleg, Universität Erfurt (to be published in 2020).
“The Crown of Our Heads has Fallen: Some Mourning Customs of the Portuguese Jews”.