Gerd Blum: Vasari on the Jews. From Bezalel to the fictional Admirers of Michelangelo's Moses


The Roman Jews, Vasari writes, had frequented Michelangelo's Moses "each and every Sabbath, in crowds like flocks of starlings." This passage stylizes Michelangelo as vanquisher of a supposed mosaic aniconism by the means and power of a Christian image. At the same time, it alludes to the theological topos of the so-called "Eschatological Jew," meaning those Jews who (on account of Augustinian doctrine) would spontaneously, and voluntarily, convert at Judgment Day. Is Vasari's report the testimony of a real situation? This question will be examined in light of sources from Roman archives and in the context of the new conversion policies of the counter-reformation church, which commenced under Paul III in circa 1542 and which is still under consideration in an unpublished description of Michelangelo's Moses by Francesco Bocchi of c. 1564.

The precise meaning of Vasari's statements on the Jews and especially on Bezalel, the first artist of the Hebrew Bible, and the ‘new Bezalel', Michelangelo, can be understood within the eschatological framework of Christian salvation history that underlie the 'Vite'.

Gerd Blum ist seit 2001 Professor für Kunstgeschichte an der Kunstakademie Münster.

Nach dem Studium in München, Bochum, Berlin und an der Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa promovierte er in Basel über den 'Deutsch-Römer' Hans von Marées. Habilitation mit einer Arbeit über "Idealer Ort und inszenierter Ausblick. Architektur und Landschaft in der italienischen Renaissance", ebenfalls in Basel. Kürzlich veröffentlichte er Aufsätze sowie eine Biographie über Giorgio Vasari ("Giorgio Vasari, Der Erfinder der Renaissance", München: C.H.Beck 2011). Ein weiterer Arbeitsschwerpunkt ist die zeitgenössische Kunst. Blum war Gastprofessor an der Universität Heidelberg und im akademischen Jahr 2010/2011 Fellow am Institute for Advanced Study der Universität Konstanz. 2010 erhielt er den Wissenschaftspreis der Aby-Warburg-Stiftung Hamburg.

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