Friday, December 16, 2011

Unicorns and Winged Serpents in the Cervera Hebrew Bible: On View at the Met for Only Three More Days

Cervera Hebrew Bible, details

On view for one week only – that’s both the difficulty and the pleasure that comes from the Met’s turning the pages of the Cervera Hebrew Bible. Visitors can take in two new pages beginning each Tuesday until January 16, when this 800-year-old Bible will be whisked back to Lisbon’s Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal.  (Read more about the exhibition here.)

This week it’s opened to brightly colored pages whose corners are decorated with unicorns, serpent-like creatures with human faces, and animals on their hind legs playing musical instruments.

French medallion
They seem to reflect a mix a traditions.  The diamond and scalloped linear patterns seem almost Islamic, and the unicorn often symbolizes purity in Christian art.

The Met is showing these pages in the context of contemporaneous French medallions – the illuminator of the Cervera Bible was Joseph the Frenchman – that are made up of similar fanciful creatures.

This delight is on view only through Sunday.

 Text and photos Copyright 2011 Laura Gilbert