Artibus et Historiae no. 38 (XIX)

1998, ISSN 0391-9064

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JOSEPH GUTMANN - On Biblical Legends in Medieval Art

Depictions of extra-biblical legends frequently appear in medieval Christian, Jewish and Islamic art. These depictions, although frequently rooted in ancient Jewish lore, are not based on lost ancient Jewish artistic traditions as some scholars have claimed. Rather, the legends were adapted and creatively transformed by Christians and Muslims to convey new theological concepts. This article explores three biblical legends in medieval art - Adam being worshiped by angels, Cain being shown by two ravens how to kill his brother Abel, and Pharaoh rescued by God at the Red Sea. These illustrations demonstrate that while the literary traditions have some relationship to each other, they bear little resemblance artistically and iconographically.

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