University Art Gallery Exhibition Features Jewish Religion And Life In 17th & 18th Century Europea

DARTMOUTH, MA. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts will feature an extraordinary exhibition of rare prints entitled 'Tabernacle, Temple, King, Adulteress: Depictions of Jewish Religion and Life in 17th and 18th Century European Prints' in the University Art Gallery located in downtown New Bedford. The exhibition is free and open for viewing all summer until September 9th.

DARTMOUTH, MA. – The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts will feature an extraordinary exhibition of rare prints entitled “Tabernacle, Temple, King, Adulteress: Depictions of Jewish Religion and Life in 17th and 18th Century European Prints” in the University Art Gallery located in downtown New Bedford. The exhibition is free and open for viewing all summer until September 9th. 

The earliest print in the exhibition is a woodcut from around 1548 during the late Northern Renaissance period, but most of the prints are from the 1680's and the 1730's. A majority is by the Dutch Mennonite artist and poet, Jan Luyken. Almost all of the more than eighty prints on view were acquired from a collection in Holland. Additional prints were acquired from collections in England and the US. 

Some of the prints were included in bibles, but most come from late 17th century books that explore the history and religion of the Jewish people. Based on a close reading of the Old Testament, these books attempted a scientific and artistic exploration of topics such as the architecture of the Tabernacle and the different temples in Jerusalem. Other topics included the life of Moses, the Jewish alphabets, methods of punishment, adultery, divorce, and the anointing of kings. 

Especially important in this endeavor was the Amsterdam publisher, Wilhelmus Goeree, whose books on The Jewish Republic - an example of which is on display - almost all featured prints by Jan Luyken. Although Jan Luyken was a great artist in his own right, his goal was to visualize and dramatize the great events taking place in the desert during the Exodus from Egypt, for example, or other similar events that often featured "a cast of a thousand." In a time period that did not have television and films, Luyken was tremendously important as an artist that made those historical events popular, serving the same role that today is generally met by movies such as “Troy”. 

Also on view are examples of stricter architectural recreations of the Temple, the columns of Jachin and Boaz, and the brazen sea, although these renderings are in their own way as "inspired" as the renderings that intentionally are more literary and dramatic. 

With the Treaty of Westphalia (Peace of Munster) in 1648, the Netherlands had emerged as a new and very different nation from anything that had existed before. As the first "modern" nation, it established religious tolerance and freedom of conscience. As a result, it drew large numbers of persecuted minorities, including Huguenots, Jews, Anabaptists, Amish and Mennonites. All these religious and ethnic groups contributed greatly to Holland's Golden Age of commerce, art, literature and science. The prints on view in this exhibition can be seen as a manifestation of this new civic freedom and respect for the individual, the new respect for religions, and the simultaneous respect for the separation of church and state. This is the period that eventually led to the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and Western society as we know it today. 

The University Art Gallery is located in the former Star Store building, at 715 Purchase Street in New Bedford, Massachusetts. It is open from 9 AM until 6 PM from Monday through Friday, and from noon until 5PM on Saturday – Sunday. Admission if free.


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