2024 Howard S. Schwartz Memorial Annual Lecture Series
“Moses through an Urban Lens: Jewish Neighbors, African Visitors, and the Life of a Biblical Patriarch in Late Medieval Regensburg”
Nina Rowe, Professor of Art History, Fordham University
Thursday, March 7th, 2024 | 6:15–7:45pm CT | Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, L150 | Livestreamed at: https://go.wisc.edu/hu1a6l
Moses gives a magical ring to his wife, the Ethiopian princess Tharbis. Earlier in the same story, Moses is welcomed and protected at the Egyptian royal court, despite full knowledge of – and preoccupation with – his Jewish lineage. These tales from Moses’s life are presented in word and image in illuminated World Chronicle (Weltchronik) manuscripts made for high-ranking burghers in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, circa 1400. In the late Middle Ages, Regensburg was a prosperous trade hub, with a thriving Jewish community and a port center that hosted traders from far-flung centers. In this setting, there was apparent enthusiasm for stories that celebrated a biblical hero’s Jewishness and love for an African princess. Such interests do not square with standard conceptions of the European Middle Ages as a period that was unrelentingly hostile to those outside the white, Christian fold. My investigation of illuminated Weltchroniken, therefore, complicates modern understandings of the medieval era and gives voice to facets of late medieval daily life otherwise often silenced in the discourse of art history.
Nina Rowe specializes in the art of northern Europe in the high and late Middle Ages (twelfth to fifteenth century). Her recent research examines illuminated World Chronicle (Weltchronik) manuscripts, created in southern Germany and Austria circa 1330 to 1430. Another facet of her scholarship examines images of Jews and Judaism in settings ranging from monumental cathedral façade sculpture to hand-held carved ivories. Her scholarship also addresses the production and reception of illuminated manuscripts in the medieval and modern eras.
Professor Rowe’s research has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities (2016–17), the American Council of Learned Societies (2016–17), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2007–08). She was awarded the Karen Gould Prize from the Medieval Academy of America in 2023 for her book The Illuminated World Chronicle: Tales from the Late Medieval City (Yale UP, 2020). She served as President of the International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA), 2020–23.
Image caption: Moses and the Princess Tharbis, illumination in a World Chronicle manuscript, Regensburg (Germany), ca. 1410. Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, MS 33, fol. 67v.