(A Throw of the Dice) Gothic Purim (Regensberg Pentateuch)


Queen Esther and Ahashverosh, the hanging of Haman and sons, and the triumph of Mordechai –no cheerful image this, this gothic illumination from the Regensberg Pentateuch (1300). The image is reproduced in the sumptuously illustrated Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts edited by Marc Epstein. What’s curious about this page is the unfinished nature of the figures representing Haman and sons next to the full color figures of Esther, Mordechai, and Ahashverosh. A throw of the dice, the entire composition speaks to the violence of chance. Maybe though the decision was not deliberate. Probably the patron simply ran out of money and the illuminator walked off and left the job unfinished.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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