The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Art of Estrangement

Art of Estrangement

Redefining Jews in Reconquest Spain Pamela A. Patton
  • Copyright: 2013
  • Dimensions: 8 x 10
  • Page Count: 220 pages
  • Illustrations: 23 color/59 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-05383-7

Pamela Patton was awarded the 2014 Eleanor Tufts Book Award from the American Society for Hispanic Art Historical Studies or her book, Art of Estrangement: Redefining Jews in Reconquest Spain. Publication of this book has been aided by a grant from the Millard Meiss Publication Fund of the College Art Association

“Few scholars can demonstrate facility with visual culture across such a wide geographical and cultural arena, much less articulate it with insight, vigor, and clarity. Pamela Patton's Art of Estrangement will be a significant contribution to the growing art-historical literature on medieval Christian representations of non-Christians, and, more generally, it will push ahead our understanding of how works of art function as active agents in the formation of cultural attitudes.”
Art of Estrangement is a masterful study of the meaning of images of Jews in Iberian Christian visual culture after the Reconquista. The incisive analysis Pamela Patton offers of these intriguing and sometimes disturbing images is most welcome—and, in fact, revolutionary.”
“Broad in scope yet authoritative and rich in detail, Patton’s study will for a long time provide an entry point into the visual culture of medieval Spain for students, scholars, and anyone interested in Christian-Jewish relations. . . . It is precisely its combination of range, rigor, and wonderful images that makes the Art of Estrangement so impressive and so important.”
“Lucidly argued, elegantly written, beautifully illustrated, and covering much needed scholarly territory, The Art of Estrangement was a pleasure to read and will be a required text from now on in my ‘Three Cultures of Spain’ course.”
“Scholars interested in putting disciplines into conversation with one another will find this book to be a helpful and thought-provoking model. With sumptuously reproduced color plates and a clear, accessible discussion of Jewish iconography, Art of Estrangement will also be a welcome addition to undergraduate and graduate courses in both Jewish and medieval studies.”
Art of Estrangement: Redefining Jews in Reconquest Spain makes major strides toward our understanding of how visual images of Jews were developed and understood in Medieval Spain. It is an ambitious undertaking, showcasing difficult material and opening new lines of inquiry.”
Art of Estrangement is an important contribution to evolving research on the yet untapped potential of visual culture to help expand and refine our knowledge gained from textual sources.”
“Pamela A. Patton’s Art of Estrangement: Redefining Jews in Reconquest Spain makes an important contribution to the already rich field of medieval art and Jewish-Christian relations. Scholars such as Bernhard Blumenkranz, Michael Camille, Ruth Mellinkoff, Heinz Schreckenberg, Sara Lipton, Debra Higgs Strickland, Mitchell Merback, Vivian Mann, Nina Rowe, Herbert Kessler, and David Nirenberg, among others, have examined the ways in which Christian art expresses perceptions of Jews and Judaism. As Patton points out, these studies focus primarily on northern European art. Patton expands the scope of this current scholarship by demonstrating that Iberian Christian imagery incorporated, altered, or resisted northern European visual representations of Jews in order to express and shape its unique historical circumstances: the Christian conquest of Muslim-controlled territories in Spain that had significant Jewish populations between the late twelfth century and mid-fourteenth century. Throughout the book, an abundance of beautifully reproduced images invites the reader to closely observe visual details that support Patton’s analysis.”
“A tour de force of analytical historiography, offering scholars of medieval Iberia and medieval Jewish– Christian relations more generally a wealth of examples, a sharp and original interpretive frame, and a fine model to follow in realizing future work on medieval inter-religious contact and conflict.”

At its peak in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the so-called Spanish Reconquest transformed the societies of the Iberian Peninsula at nearly every level. Among the most vivid signs of this change were the innovative images developed by Christians to depict the subjugated Muslims and Jews within their vastly expanded kingdoms. In Art of Estrangement, Pamela Patton traces the transformation of Iberia’s Jews in the visual culture of Spain’s Christian-ruled kingdoms as those rulers strove to affiliate with mainstream Europe and distance themselves from an uncomfortably multicultural past.

Art of Estrangement scrutinizes a wide range of works—from luxury manuscripts and cloister sculptures to household ceramics and scribal doodles—to show how imported and local motifs were brought together to articulate and reinforce the efforts of Spain’s Christian communities to renegotiate their relationships with a vibrant Jewish minority. The arsenal of stereotypes, symbols, and narratives deployed to characterize Jews and their changing social roles often paralleled those found in contemporaneous literature and folklore; they ranged from such time-honored European formulae as the greedy usurer and the “Jewish nose” to locally resonant conflations of Jews with Muslims. The book’s close, contextualized reading of works from the late twelfth through early fourteenth centuries draws on recent scholarship in Iberian history, religion, and cultural studies, shedding new light on the delicate processes by which communal and religious identities were negotiated in medieval Spain.

Pamela A. Patton is Associate Professor of Art History in the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University.


List of Illustrations


1 “Aliens in Their Midst”: Reimagining Jews in Medieval Iberia

2 Topos and Narrative: New Signs and Stories For Iberian Jews

3 Shaping the Jewish Body in Medieval Iberia

4 Jews and Muslims in the Iberian Christian Imagination

5 The Cantigas de Santa María and the Jews of Castile





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