Was Michelangelo a Philo-Semite?

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  1. Nachum says:

    There are several flaws with R’ Blech’s argument that I noticed when his book first came out. In this case, Aminadav is there for one reason: The sides of the ceiling feature all of the (supposed) ancestors of Jesus. Since his line runs through David and Yehuda, Aminadav is there. (There are different lists at the beginning of two of the Gospels. Of course, according to Christian belief, Jesus was *not* the son of Joseph, so this is all meaningless, but that’s another story.)

    That’s not to say that Michelangelo was not a lot more pro-Jewish than you would have expected. For example, he used Jews from Rome’s ghetto as models for his Biblical figures (including his statue of Jesus himself), because he felt, logically, that those figures must have looked, well, Jewish. Christian artists since well before him and up until today prefer to pretend that Jesus and all Biblical figures were blonde Nordic types.

    The infamous horns on his statue of Moses are not, as is sometimes believed, anti-Semitic. Michelangelo knew full well that the “horns” seen on pictures of Moshe since the Middle Ages were a result of a mistranslation and stuck them there because he really didn’t like the pope whose grave he was making the statue for. (The pope caught on and had it moved somewhere else.)

    Funny story: When Jerusalem celebrated the 3,000th anniversary of its capture by King David about twenty years ago, Italy announced it would presenting a gift of copy of a statue of David to the city. This caused officials to panic, because they were worried that meant Michelangelo’s version, which is, ahem, not very tzanua. (Other famous statues of David are similar, taking a bit literally his lack of armor when he faced Goliath.) They ended up presenting a copy of one of the famous clothed versions, though, so everyone was happy; it’s on display at Migdal David. (The same thing happened when Paris decided to give a gift and much to everyone’s relief gave a fountain.)

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