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Jerusalem in the Middle Ages: Curatorial Advisory Committee

Barbara Drake Boehm
Paul and Jill Ruddock Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters

Melanie Holcomb
Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters


"The city which you see is the cause of all our labor. . . "

—Baldric of Dol, (1050–1130)

Image of the Heavenly Jerusalem, from The Cloisters' Apocalypse (68.174).

The forthcoming exhibition on Jerusalem in the Middle Ages, organized by curators Melanie Holcomb and Barbara Boehm, is scheduled to open at the Metropolitan in 2016. The art it will showcase is culturally diverse and defies easy categorization. There are Hebrew manuscripts that draw on Christian visual tradition; there are Christian illuminations of Hebrew scripture. Armenian manuscripts were brought to Jerusalem from Egypt and Ethiopian manuscripts were sent by the king of that land to the Holy City. The monastery of the Holy Cross was controlled sometimes by Georgians, sometimes Armenians, Greeks, Jacobites, and Nestorians. Metalwork with Christian subjects was created for Muslim patrons, and metalwork with Muslim subjects was acquired by Christians; there are marble slabs carved with Arabic and Latin inscriptions.

Above: "An Angel Present the Heavenly Jerusalem to Saint John" (detail), from a Manuscript of the Apocalypse, ca. 1330. Made in Normandy, France. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Cloisters Collection, 1968 (68.174)

Christ's Entry to Jerusalem, depicted on a pyxis from the Met's Islamic Department (1971.39a, b)In such a complex world, a full understanding of works of art created in or inspired by Jerusalem demands that research not be conducted in isolation by western medievalists, scholars of Judaica, of Eastern Christianity, or Islamicists. Accordingly, thanks to a grant from the David Berg Foundation, a consultative team of scholars interested in the intersection of these various traditions convened at the Metropolitan Museum in the Spring of 2014 to ensure that the project benefits from their multiple perspectives. Guided by the exhibition's curators, the group reviewed the working checklist object by object and discussed the themes and sequence of the exhibition as well as the structure of the catalogue and programming. Some of the scholars will ultimately serve as catalogue authors; others as guest speakers for our exhibition-related educational programs.

Above: Pyxis Depicting Christ's Entry into Jerusalem (detail), mid-13th century. Syria. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Rogers Fund, 1971 (1971.39a,b)

International in character, and balanced in expertise, the committee included members whose specialties range from Hebrew manuscript illumination to Orthodox Christianity to Islamic architecture. Among the questions that the committee wrestled with:

Image of the Crucifixion of Christ, from the Medieval Department's Double-Sided Ethiopian Gospel Leaf (2006.100)—How can we best navigate the many stories that are told about Jerusalem at this moment?

—How can we evoke a sense of place in our galleries and in the catalogue?

—How do we not fall prey to the collapse of history that besets so many projects concerning Jerusalem?

—How do we achieve a balance of works of art—aesthetically, culturally, chronologically?

—How can we suggest the chronological and cultural layering of works of art that is evident to the visitor to the city of Jerusalem?

—How can we group objects so that they also attest to the interconnection of communities, not only to their segregation?

Above: Double-Sided Gospel Leaf, first half of 14th century. Made in Tigray, Ethiopia. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Oscar de la Renta Ltd. Gift, 2006 (2006.100)

Members of the Committee:

Dr. Helen Evans, Mary and Michael Jaharis Curator of Byzantine Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A specialist in early Christian, Byzantine, and Armenian art, Dr. Evans has organized for the Metropolitan three award-winning exhibitions devoted to the art of Byzantium. Her expertise encompasses the art of the multiple Christian communities of Eastern Christendom that were present in the Holy Land in the period of our exhibition.

Members of the Curatorial Advisory Committee for Jerusalem in the Middle Ages

Dr. Jaroslav Folda, N. Ferebee Taylor Professor of the History of Art, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Professor Folda is the leading specialist on Crusader art and architecture; several of his books are classics in the field. He has published a number of the objects that will be included in the exhibition.

Dr. Abby Kornfeld, Assistant Professor of Art History and Jewish Studies, City College of New York
Dr. Kornfeld's work focuses on the interaction among Jewish, Christian, and Islamic art across the medieval Mediterranean. Her work has been recognized by the Wexner Foundation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Getty. Her forthcoming book examines Hebrew illuminated manuscripts within the broader context of medieval art.

Dr. Yusuf Natsheh, Director, Department of Islamic Archaeology, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem and Lecturer, Tantur Ecumenical Institute of the University of Notre Dame, Jerusalem
Dr. Natsheh was educated in Jerusalem, Cairo, and London and is a specialist in Islamic architecture and the vibrant heritage of Jerusalem's Old City. (See a related story on CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/08/21/jerusalem.soup.kitchen/.) Responsible for the buildings and collections of the Haram al-Sharif, he was a recent consultant for the BBC's series based on Simon Sebag Montefiore's Jerusalem: The Biography.

Members of the Curatorial Advisory Committee for Jerusalem in the Middle Ages

Dr. Avinoam Shalem, Riggio Professor of Art History, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
Professor Shalem is a specialist of Islamic art, with an interest in artistic interactions in the Mediterranean. He was educated in Tel Aviv, Munich, and Edinburgh. He has published extensively on medieval Islamic, Jewish, and Christian art.

Elizabeth Williams, Research Assistant, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.
Ms. Williams's research on the production and trade of eastern Mediterranean jewelry straddles the fields of Byzantine, Islamic, and Jewish art. She is in the final stages of writing her dissertation. The recipient of several prestigious fellowships, she has studied in Berlin, Damascus, Jerusalem, and New York.