|From http://jewishjesusart.com - all rights to original artists.|
In both paintings Mary and Joseph appear as stylish fair-skinned, fair-haired Christians. To emphasize that these are Christian ceremonies they are conducted by high church officials. But these ceremonies and settings are alien to the origins of this Jewish couple from a rural village in Nazareth—when, in fact, the actual betrothal and their lives had everything to do with Judaism. All indications from the Gospel depictions say that Mary was immersed in Jewish life and practices.
Why should we care about these misrepresentations? A contentious and often violent relationship between Christianity and Judaism began in the first century, as the emerging Christianity sought to establish itself as separate from its deep roots in Judaism. Remnants of that divide continue to reverberate today. And art (particularly paintings and stained glass windows) was a major vehicle in Medieval and Renaissance Europe for teaching the populace about Church doctrines and perceptions—ones that often embodied anti-Semitism.
I wish that art historians, curators, and art critics would follow Pope Francis’ lead and finally acknowledge the falsification of biblical history in artworks that denied the Jewish identities of Jesus and Mary.
In excruciatingly detailed commentaries on artworks by professionals in the field the glaring feature of identity theft is almost never noted. Doing so would take nothing away from the magnificence of these works and their contribution to the development and enhancement of art and culture. But it would contribute to a long-overdue participation in the reconciliation of Christianity and Judaism. It would affirm the two sides of the Jesus and Mary story: Jesus and Mary the dedicated Jews and Jesus and Mary whose lives inspired a new religion.Check out the exhibit "Putting Judaism Back in the Picture: Toward Healing the Christian/Jewish Divide" at http://jewishjesusart.com.