Urban Legends: Moses, Jews, and Africans in Illuminated World Chronicles
Nina Rowe, Fordham University
November 21, 2019 · 4:30 pm—6:00 pm · 106 McCormick
Department of Art and Archaeology; Index of Medieval Art
Moses gives a magical ring to his wife, the Ethiopian princess Tharbis. The patriarch is smitten with this lady, who is depicted wearing the most fashionable accoutrements of the late Middle Ages. Earlier in the same story, Moses is welcomed and protected at the Egyptian royal court, despite full knowledge of – and preoccupation with – his Jewish lineage. These tales from Moses’s life appear in a cluster of late medieval illuminated Weltchroniken (World Chronicles) that contain legendary histories and brim with suspenseful anecdotes, told in punchy, vernacular verse. Given the circumstances in which illuminated World Chronicles were created and circulated, it appears that the often surprising textual and pictorial accounts in these manuscripts offer new evidence of attitudes and aspirations among the works’ original reader-viewers: well heeled, urbanites, immersed in the mercantile and industrial spheres of late medieval southern Germany.