Cover image for The Long Life of Magical Objects: A Study in the Solomonic Tradition By Allegra Iafrate

The Long Life of Magical Objects

A Study in the Solomonic Tradition

Allegra Iafrate

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$94.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08366-7

248 pages
6.125" × 9.25"
19 b&w illustrations
2019

Magic in History

The Long Life of Magical Objects

A Study in the Solomonic Tradition

Allegra Iafrate

“Whether or not King Solomon was a real historical figure, he has left an imprint on the collective imagination of Jews, Christians, and Muslims—a physical imprint in the form of special rings, bottles, carpets, and other objects thought to manifest the king’s legendary magical powers. Iafrate’s study illumines the ancient and medieval history of these various magical objects, but more than that, it is a model of how to combine historical inquiry into the Bible's reception with sophisticated study of material religion. This book has much to teach those with an interest in the religious origins of magical symbols, but it is also a marvelously innovative study of the history of biblical interpretation that shows what we can learn by thinking of the Bible three-dimensionally.”

 

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This book explores a series of powerful artifacts associated with King Solomon via legendary or extracanonical textual sources. Tracing their cultural resonance throughout history, art historian Allegra Iafrate delivers exciting insights into these objects and interrogates the ways in which magic manifests itself at a material level.

Each chapter focuses on a different Solomonic object: a ring used to control demons; a mysterious set of bottles that constrain evil forces; an endless knot or seal with similar properties; the shamir, known for its supernatural ability to cut through stone; and a flying carpet that can bring the sitter anywhere he desires. Taken together, these chapters constitute a study on the reception of the figure of Solomon, but they are also cultural biographies of these magical objects and their inherent aesthetic, morphological, and technical qualities.

Thought-provoking and engaging, Iafrate’s study shows how ancient magic artifacts live on in our imagination, in items such as Sauron’s ring of power, Aladdin’s lamp, and the magic carpet. It will appeal to historians of art, religion, folklore, and literature.

“Whether or not King Solomon was a real historical figure, he has left an imprint on the collective imagination of Jews, Christians, and Muslims—a physical imprint in the form of special rings, bottles, carpets, and other objects thought to manifest the king’s legendary magical powers. Iafrate’s study illumines the ancient and medieval history of these various magical objects, but more than that, it is a model of how to combine historical inquiry into the Bible's reception with sophisticated study of material religion. This book has much to teach those with an interest in the religious origins of magical symbols, but it is also a marvelously innovative study of the history of biblical interpretation that shows what we can learn by thinking of the Bible three-dimensionally.”
“Iafrate nimbly maneuvers among the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim literatures on Solomon as well as between the canonical and non-canonical texts of these three religions. She also expressly and sensitively considers the materiality of the objects taken from Solomon’s ‘cabinet,’ carefully tracing their literary emergence and transformations, allowing literary imaginations to develop material features, real in a quite different way. Through case studies in the polysemic appreciation of cultural objects, this work becomes guidebook on how historical cultural objects sustain multiple meanings across time and cultures.”
“A pioneering attempt to write a material history of magical objects. Training her sights on a well-curated collection of items associated with the magical powers of King Solomon, Iafrate traces with exquisite care the ‘biographies’ of these devices as they move through time and between cultures. Beyond documenting the many symbolic and material permutations of these Solomonic objects across Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, she also demonstrates how integral—even essential—their material, morphological, and aesthetic properties are to their ritual efficacy.”
“After her Wandering Throne of Solomon, Allegra Iafrate continues her exciting investigations by studying five ‘Solomonic magical objects’: the ring used to control demons; the bottles in which he was said to constrain them; the so-called Solomon’s knot; the shamir, a mythical object, known for its ability to cut through stone; and the flying carpet. This breathtaking study confirms the talent of one of the brightest historians of medieval art of her generation.”

Allegra Iafrate is the author of The Wandering Throne of Solomon: Objects and Tales of Kingship in the Medieval Mediterranean.