To look at one of the treasures on display in this wonderful exhibit, the Kennicott Bible, is to view an example of the shared heritage of Jews, Christians and Muslims. This is the key note of Crossing Borders. The Kennicott Bible and the other stunning, hand-written works on display show the “cross-pollination” of art and ideas among the cultured elites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam during the Middle Ages. More to the point, it is a testament to the shared devotion of these three faiths to the same God.
The Metropolitan Museum exhibition charts the fascinating, if complex, process of cultural transformation that took place throughout the Middle East during the seventh to ninth centuries. For all of the thrust-and-parry military campaigns that took place, a spirit of mutual accommodation often characterized relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates that governed the Islamic world for much of the Middle Ages.
Most movies like Black Death exploit the historical context to take shots at organized religion with impunity. A select few try to balance the mistakes of the early church with the importance of faith over dogma – an approach that Season Of The Witch admittedly tried, but got lost too far up its own butt to realize. Black Death tends toward the latter type of story, but pushes its acid satire into fairly new territory.
The earlier prints from each series are flatter, the lines more bold and calligraphic, the details stranger. The later images show the rising influence of the renaissance: the figures bear their weight in sophisticated contrapposto stances, the realistically-rendered bodies are more beautiful. It’s illuminating to see these works grouped together, to follow their stories in and out of changing historical styles and Dürer’s own artistic and intellectual development.
When its doors first opened in 1734, the Capitoline Museum, which stands upon the hilltop that is the very heart of Rome, was one of the first European public museums and a favorite haunt of the wealthy Grand Tourists from all over Europe. As of July 30 this venerable museum offers something novel to all tourists—a chance for a fresh look at a relatively neglected period of Roman history and the arts, the Middle Ages.
It seems that world is more fantastic than our own travel brochures today can suggest for comfortable tourists. There has never been such an extensive realm, nor one with such an incredible structure of rapid communication over thousands of miles. Commerce thrived from Persia to Java, and one reason that may account for it, was order — and a flat tax of 10%. The law was strict and strictly administered everywhere, which was a marvel to Polo, in comparison with fractious Europe.
Much more serious, though, is the book’s take on the medieval world as a whole. Alongside the loud cynicism of its insistence that the battles are meaningless, the church is corrupt and the aristocracy live in a different world, Agincourt continually asserts a broadly positive, modern outlook.
For English-speaking peoples, 1066 and 1776 still evoke powerful recollections of liberty lost and freedom won. For most people in the West, however, 711 hardly strikes a note of any significance. But it should, for that was the year when a small force of Muslim Arabs and Berbers from Morocco crossed over from North Africa to Spain. Islam reached Europe in 711 and the world has never been the same.