By Asher D. Biemann
Dreaming of Michelangelo is the 1st book-length research to discover the highbrow and cultural affinities among smooth Judaism and the lifestyles and paintings of Michelangelo Buonarroti. It argues that Jewish intellectuals chanced on themselves within the snapshot of Michelangelo as an "unrequited lover" whose paintings expressed loneliness and a eager for humanity's reaction. the fashionable Jewish mind's eye hence turned consciously idolatrous. Writers delivered to life—literally—Michelangelo's sculptures, seeing in them their very own worldly and emotional struggles. The Moses statue particularly grew to become an archetype of Jewish liberation politics in addition to a relevant concentration of Jewish aesthetics. And such affinities prolonged past sculpture: Jewish viewers to the Sistine Chapel reinterpreted the ceiling as a manifesto of prophetic socialism, with out its Christian parts. in accordance with Biemann, the phenomenon of Jewish self-recognition in Michelangelo's paintings provided a substitute for the failed provides of the German enlightenment. via this unforeseen discovery, he rethinks German Jewish historical past and its connections to Italy, the Mediterranean, and the paintings of the Renaissance.
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Extra resources for Dreaming of Michelangelo: Jewish Variations on a Modern Theme
62 The same ideals and hopes, perhaps, accompanied the Jewish traveler to Italy and animated, as has often been noted, scores of Jewish scholars of the Renaissance, from Aby Warburg, to Erwin Panofsky, to Erich Auerbach, to Bernard Berenson, to mention only a few;63 and they would, finally, impel the Jewish searcher for Michelangelo. Desire If there ever was a phenomenon that could be called, in good conscience and not without some subtle irony, “German-Jewish,” then it may well have been the shared passion for Italian culture, whose archetypal literary font remain, of course, Goethe’s Italian Journeys of 1786 and 1788.
And it may have been the same eroticism and the same desire for the unconstrained that found a parallel in the Jewish love for Michelangelo. 96 In modern literature, Raphael and Michelangelo have constituted, of course a pair of irreconcilable antipodes. ” For Thode, the “primal power of love” (Urkraft der Liebe) was the origin of Michelangelo’s raw genius, of his “childlike naiveté,” which kept him both a lover into his old age and a follower of the unenlightened, yet powerful Catholic myth;101 but it was the origin also of his suffering and solitude, and of his deeply human feeling.
Paganism sees its god, Judaism hears Him,” was the often repeated formula of the Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz, who, in 1846, likened classical Judaism to a precursor of Protestant iconoclasm. Only a committed iconoclast as Graetz could note in his travel diary of 1854 that “after a while, Venice became boring to me. ”52 The Jewish modern encounter with art, then, which accompanied Jewish emancipation since the Enlightenment, embraced the image and, at the same time, repelled it, a dialectic that mirrored not only the modern dialectic of social and cultural assimilation and simultaneous intellectual or spiritual dissimilation but also the dialectic of modernist aesthetics itself.