This book is an attempt to compile the history of the illuminated Bibles of Spain and define the characteristics of the various schools of the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries in different parts of the Iberian Peninsula. Medieval Spain was extremely fertile ground for cultural exchange between ethnic groups, religions, and countries. Each of the kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula had Muslim, Christian and Jewish inhabitants. All of these aspects—Islamic and Christian art, Jewish tradition, and external influences—come to the fore in the decoration of Hebrew Bibles produced in Spain in the Middle Ages. This book focus is placed on the cultural encounters reflected in the different types of ornamentation. The imprint of the centuries-long presence of the Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula on the cultural history of Spain is evident in this art in manifold ways. Even though all of the illuminated Bibles were produced under Christian rule, and in some cases even in regions that had no Muslim presence whatsoever, their decoration is dominated by visual language borrowed from Islamic culture. In Chapter Six, it will discuss this phenomenon and analyze the historical background and cultural context of Spanish Jewry with an eye to the ornamental styles and their repertoire of forms. The other chapters deal with the schools of illustration in Castile, Navarre, and the Crown of Aragon from various points of view.
Due to the aniconic approach in the Sephardic Bibles, this is a path that can be taken only to a limited extent. The approach offered here reads formal details, ornamental motifs, the choice of a particular style in preference to another, and techniques as significant bearers of cultural identity and analyzes them from the point of view of cultural history.
Ksytin Kogman Appel is widely regarded as a world authority on the Jewish Art of the Middle Ages. She is a Full Professor, Vice-Dean and holder of the Evelyn Metz Memorial Research Chair at Ben-Gurion University. She understands art history in terms of cultural history and always relates both to aspects of social and religious history.