Exhibitions


  • Pere Espalargucs, Retablo of the Virgin and Child, Catalonia, ca. 1490.  Tempera on Wood, The Hispanic Society of New York, A5.

  • Pere Espalargucs, Retablo of the Virgin and Child, Catalonia, ca. 1490.  Tempera on Wood, The Hispanic Society of New York, A5.

  • Pere Espalargucs, Retablo of the Virgin and Child, Catalonia, ca. 1490.  Tempera on Wood, The Hispanic Society of New York, A5.


Uneasy Communion

Jews, Christians, and the Altarpieces of Medieval Spain

February 19–May 30, 2010

This exhibition discusses the last two centuries of medieval Spanish history in the Crown of Aragon (the Kingdom of Aragon, the Kingdom of Valencia, and the region of Catalonia) from the vantage point of religious art, and demonstrates the documented cooperative relationship that existed between Christians and Jews who worked either independently or together to create art both for the Church and the Jewish community. Religious art was not created solely by members of the faith community it was intended to serve, but its production in the multi-cultural society of late medieval Spain was more complicated. Jewish and Christian artists worked together in ateliers producing both retablos (large multi-paneled altarpieces) as well as Latin and Hebrew manuscripts. Jews and conversos (Jews who had converted to Christianity) were painters and framers of retablos, while Christians illuminated the pages of Hebrew manuscripts.

The exhibition tells not only the story of this fascinating moment of artistic collaboration, it also provides a glimpse into the lives of these communities which lived side by side. Images in some retablos reflect the hardships of Jewish life in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries: conversions, forced sermons, disputations, the Inquisition, and charges of host desecration and blood libel. Other extraordinary paintings project a messianic view of a future in which Jews would join with Christians in one faith.

The exhibition is accompanied by the publication edited by Vivian B. Mann, with essays by Marcus B. Burke, Carmen Laccara Ducay, Thomas F. Glick and Vivian B. Mann, which provide a fascinating study of the production of altarpieces in late medieval Spain and the artistic overlap between the Jewish and Christian communities that this industry spawned. Uneasy Communion: Jews, Christians, and the Altarpieces of Medieval Spain is published by D Giles Limited in association with the Museum of Biblical Art and is available at the MOBIA online Bookstore .


This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Support for the catalog has been provided, in part, by the Robert Lehman Foundation. Additional support for Uneasy Communion has been provided by the David Berg Foundation, Robert and Sandra Bowden, Hester Diamond, and Brian O’Neil. Major support for MOBIA’s exhibitions and programs has been provided by the American Bible Society and by Howard and Roberta Ahmanson.