Panel: Sephardic Book Art of the Late 15th Century: Tradition, Adaptation, Innovation Organizer: Luís Afonso
Chair: Luís Afonso
Luís Afonso, University of Lisbon, Portugal
Title: The Cultural Meaning of Portuguese and Andalusian Sephardic Book Decoration
Abstract: If we compare two manuscripts produced around the same time in Lisbon and Seville we notice immediately the difference is outstanding. One is carefully decorated with coloured frames filled with exquisite vegetation and animals, has coloured filigree word panels and has a reasonable use of golden words and filets. The other is almost monochromatic, it does not have any figurative reference besides some vegetation, and is mainly decorated with geometric patterns and forms derived from Islamic artistic traditions, particularly seen in some exquisite micrographic exercises. In this paper the meaning of the Portuguese and the Andalusian different artistic solutions is addressed and their meaning is explored in order to understand what they can tell us regarding the relations between Jews and Christians in Late Medieval Iberia.
Debora Marques de Matos, King’s College, London, UK
Title: Mobility and Adaptability of Sephardic Book-makers in the Late Fifteenth century
Abstract: Notwithstanding the historical circumstances, there is a new dynamic in the production of Hebrew books in the Iberian Peninsula during the last decades of the fifteenth century. This was mostly due to the development of the printing press with Hebrew characters but also to a widespread interest in luxuriously decorated manuscripts. The way Hebrew books were produced inevitably changed: jobs and tasks had to be restructured or created, and to a certain extent books begin to be produced ‘in mass’. Although it does not abandon completely the familiar and religious environment where it was prepared for centuries, the Hebrew book slowly moves to a new space — the workshop. While the mobility of scribes and other craftsmen as a consequence of persecution or expulsion has been amply explored in scholarship, the fact that they often moved in search for new opportunities has often been disregarded. However, it is possible to trace the work of scribes across several regions, in some cases taking new roles and learning new crafts. The following presentation intends to explore concrete examples of scribes and other craftsmen who can be linked to more than one area or production or workshop, and consider how they adapted to new roles and new ‘audiences’, to what extent they assimilated new styles, and what remained as the core of their work.
Tiago Moita, University of Lisbon, Portugal
Title: The Hebrew Bible from Moura. A Testimony of Mudéjar Art in Portugal
Abstract: There is no doubt that in the last decades of the 15th century Lisbon becomes one of the main Iberian centres for the copy and illumination of Hebrew manuscripts. However, this craft was not necessarily restricted to the capital and several examples attest the same activity in other parts of the country, at least since the late 1300s. Within the group of Portuguese Hebrew manuscripts there is one manuscript that deserves our attention, a lesser-known Bible copied in 1470 by Samuel ben Abraham Altires, in the small village of Moura (south of Portugal), for the renowned Lisbon merchant, Isaac ben Gabbay (Oxford, Bodleian Library, Ms. Can. Or. 42). Its copious micrographic decoration, with a grammar that is essentially mudéjar, establishes a connection with the ‘Andalusian school’, where the influence of Islamic art is more strongly felt (not only in manuscripts, but also in synagogal architecture); on the other hand, the decoration of this Bible is open to colour, particularly gold, a frequent feature of the manuscripts from Lisbon produced in the next decades. The purpose of this paper is the analysis of this manuscript by considering its historical, codicological and artistic aspects, in order to underline its cultural meaning as a link between the Andalusian and Portuguese production.