The exhibition, curated by Giulio Busi and Silvana Greco, addresses one of the crucial periods in the cultural history of the Peninsula, decisive for the formation of the Italian identity, revealing a completely original aspect, such as the presence of the Jews and the fruitful cultural dialogue with the Christian culture of majority.
Paintings such as the Holy Family and the Baptist family (1504-1506) by Andrea Mantegna, the Birth of the Virgin (1502-1507) by Vittore Carpaccio and the Dispute of Jesus with the Doctors of the Temple (1519-1525) by Ludovico Mazzolino, Elia and Eliseo del Sassetta, where significant written in Hebrew pop up. Illuminated Jewish manuscripts, of Renaissance style and wealth, like the Guide of the perplexed by Maimonides (1349), purchased by the Italian State less than a year ago. Or the oldest wooden Holy Ark in Italy, never returned first from Paris, or the Tellah Scroll of Biella, an ancient parchment of the Hebrew Bible, still used today in the synagogal liturgy.
In the Renaissance the Jews were and were in the front row, active and enterprising. In Florence, Ferrara, Mantua, Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Naples, Palermo and obviously Rome. In alternate periods, welcomed and well-regarded, with a non-secondary role as lenders, doctors, merchants, or objects of prejudice. Interpreters of a season that encompasses multiple experiences, encounters, clashes, harmonic moments and abrupt interruptions. MEIS tells this rich and complex confrontation for the first time.
Reconstructing this intertwining of reciprocal experiments means recognizing the debt of Italian culture towards Judaism and exploring the Jewish presuppositions of Renaissance civilization. And it means admitting that this interpenetration has not always been synonymous with harmony, nor with acceptance without trauma, but has involved intolerance, contradictions, social exclusion and violence against the Jewish group, committed to the difficult defense of its specificity.
With this new narrative, enhanced by the engaging set design of the GTRF studio in Brescia, the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Holocaust of Ferrara marks a crucial step in its offer to the general public. Not only because the exhibition is a further chapter in the story of Italian Judaism (after the one about the first thousand years, now transformed into the first part of the permanent path), but also because this new section touches the heart of the MEIS mission: to witness the dialogue complex but possible, sometimes fruitful, although not without shadows, between minority and majority. A precious lesson that Italy collects from its history to offer it to the present, to an increasingly multicultural Europe and called to question itself about its roots.
The Renaissance speaks Hebrew is organized by MEIS, with the patronage of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, the Emilia-Romagna Region, the Municipality of Ferrara and the Union of Italian Jewish Communities – UCEI.
The ticket is valid for the entire exhibition (exhibitions on the first thousand years of Italian Judaism and on the Renaissance), for the multimedia show With the eyes of Italian Jews, for The Space of Questions, the Garden of Questions and the documentary We were Italians on Italian Holocaust survivors.
Silvana Editoriale bilingual catalog.