Dreaming of Michelangelo: Jewish Variations on a Modern Theme

Dreaming of Michelangelo: Jewish Variations on a Modern Theme

Language: English

Pages: 200

ISBN: 0804768811

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Dreaming of Michelangelo is the first book-length study to explore the intellectual and cultural affinities between modern Judaism and the life and work of Michelangelo Buonarroti. It argues that Jewish intellectuals found themselves in the image of Michelangelo as an "unrequited lover" whose work expressed loneliness and a longing for humanity's response. The modern Jewish imagination thus became consciously idolatrous. Writers brought to life—literally—Michelangelo's sculptures, seeing in them their own worldly and emotional struggles. The Moses statue in particular became an archetype of Jewish liberation politics as well as a central focus of Jewish aesthetics. And such affinities extended beyond sculpture: Jewish visitors to the Sistine Chapel reinterpreted the ceiling as a manifesto of prophetic socialism, devoid of its Christian elements. According to Biemann, the phenomenon of Jewish self-recognition in Michelangelo's work offered an alternative to the failed promises of the German enlightenment. Through this unexpected discovery, he rethinks German Jewish history and its connections to Italy, the Mediterranean, and the art of the Renaissance.

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poet insists on the ekphrastic reality of this event. For if books and things can speak to us, why could it not be that this Moses, for the love of his people, should speak to me? Did not Michelangelo “open his soul,” did not his chisel make the Moses speak, was he not “una statua più viva della vita stessa”—a statue more alive than life itself? Indeed, the Moses calls out to him in a “rabbinical and fatherly” tone asking him, the poet, who in his state of shock resembles a petrified statue, to

however tenuously, our Jewish protagonists, whether Heine, Freud, Tchernichovski, Revere, Steinheim, or, for that matter, Hermann Cohen, and what connects them to Michelangelo, is their sympathy for a statue’s self, their acknowledgment of its being in difference. It may be fear, desire, disappointment, or mere fantasy; it may be an attempt to arrest its motion, to tame the image. But it remains a passion for what is trapped in the never finished stone, a listening, Belauschen; a form of

2002), 9. For an earlier source see especially George L. Mosse, German Jews Beyond Judaism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 1–20; Paul Mendes-Flohr, German Jews: A Dual Identity (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), esp. 1–15. For the German ideal of Bildung and reference to earlier works see Aleida Assmann, Arbeit am nationalen Gedächtnis: Eine kurze Geschichte der deutschen Bildungsidee (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 1993). 9. Cf. Walter Benjamin “Goethes

Rosenzweig, “Zur Encyclopedia Judaica,” 741. 15. Hermann Cohen, “Innere Beziehungen der Kantischen Philosophie zum Judentum,” in Jüdische Schriften, vol. 1, Ethische und religiöse Grundfragen (Berlin: C. A. Schwetschke, 1924), 295. 16. Hermann Cohen, Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums (Frankfurt am Main: J. Kauffmann, 1929), 78. 17. Cf. ibid., 79–80. 18. Cf. Matteo Burioni and Sabine Feser, eds., Giorgio Vasari. Kunsttheorie und Kunstgeschichte: Eine Einführung in die

became ever more radical and deep].” Cautious not to offend his Christian readers, Levi never labeled Christianity a “false” messianism but, to the contrary, reclaimed the “true” Christ for prophetic Judaism reborn in the leaders of the Risorgimento—and in the art of Michelangelo. Cf. also ibid., 195–98. 85. Cohen, “Das soziale Ideal bei Platon und den Propheten,” 301. Cohen’s reading of the Pietà is by no means unusual. Alexander Perrig writes: “Im Thema Pietà nahm Michelangelo den kritischen

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