A New Exhibition of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Art Spanning 200 Years in Spain

Big American museums, Holland Cotter argues, tend to present devotional art “purely in aesthetic terms,” with little or no attempt to explain the spiritual, political, or ideological meaning they held for their original audiences. This is not the case, however, for the Met Cloisters’ exhibit on the religious art of Spain at the start of the 11th century, which also reflects the often-peaceful exchanges of culture among three major religions:

Politics, and specifically geopolitics, is the underlying subject of Spain 1000-1200: Art at the Frontiers of Faith at the Cloisters. The show is a classic Met product. Its 40-plus objects—sculptures, textiles, manuscripts, most from the museum’s holdings—are top-shelf items, distinguished by outstanding rarity, beauty, or both. And in their Cloisters setting, the element of faith is writ large.

The show is installed in the museum’s Fuentidueña Chapel Gallery, a space defined by a full-scale architectural work, the complete apse of the 12th-century church of San Martín from the town of Fuentidueña in central northern Spain. The apse was transported, stone by stone, to the Cloisters in the late 1940s as a long-term loan from the Spanish government. With its high, clean Romanesque lines, and a fresco of the Virgin and Child (from a different church) spanning its dome, it’s a charismatic backdrop for a presentation of art from an era in which three religions shared highly contested terrain. . . .

The notion of three major faith-based cultures interacting peaceably and productively has an attractively utopian spin. And the art in the Met show, with its hybrid beauties, to some degree backs it up.

In a manuscript painting at the Cloisters, a 10th-century Christian monk named Maius makes the Heavenly Jerusalem look a lot like the Great Mosque of Cordoba. A 14th-century Hebrew Bible shimmers with Islamic interlace patterns. Islamic textiles, some with Arabic inscriptions, were used to wrap the relics of Christian saints. A sapphire embedded in a spectacular silver frame surrounding an ivory crucifix is inscribed with four of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Art, Islam, Jewish art, Medieval Spain


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict