Words and Pictures. On the Literal and the Symbolic in the by Meyer Schapiro

By Meyer Schapiro

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Only in the narrow space between the profiles of Christ and Judas do we glimpse a frontal face; it is a segment of a face — a nose, eye, and mouth — beside a segment of a profile that overlaps it. Together with the faces of Christ and Judas these interposed heads make a surprising series, a cinematic succession of human features as of a rotating head, passing from the coarse tilted profile of Judas to the noble features of Christ. Giotto's originality of conception will be more evident if we compare his picture with the same scene in the upper church at Assisi, painted a generation earlier (Fig.

Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Solomon, Judith, and others were often named in courtly literature as noble types beside those of the Greek and Roman world. For feudal imagination the Old Testament had a legendary, even pagan, aspect and its kings were the models of a heroic royalty for which the Gospels could provide no precedent. Episodes of the Jewish Bible were quoted then as history and poetic example without regard to the fourfold interpretation. Meyer Schapiro - 9783110849813 Downloaded from De Gruyter Online at 09/26/2016 10:49:53AM via Cambridge University Library THEME OF STATE AND THEME OF ACTION (il) 35 As with the story of Moses, the secularizing trend in the illustration of a Biblical narrative text, very strong in the late Middle Ages, may be traced also in pictures of Jacob Blessing the Sons of Joseph.

15, Pat. lat. XLII, col. , LVII, cols. 345-46; Ephraém Syrus, Commentarii in Genesim et Exodum, ed. -M. Tonneau (Louvain, 1965), pp. 126,127; and others. 19 Philo, who believed that the literal text, like the letter of the Law, is "a symbol of intellectual things", wrote in his Allegory of the Laws (III, 186) that the prayer of Moses with lifted arms "signifies that the soul triumphs when it raises itself above the world of sense" (cited by J. , p. 190, n. 1). A later rabbinical author said: "It was not the uplifted arms of Moses that miraculously made Israel prevail.

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