Director of Postgraduate Research Studies | Director, Centre for Jewish Studies | Lecturer in History of Art and Jewish Visualities
+44 (0)113 34 35197
Fine Art Building, Room 3.12
MA Munich, PhD Munich
I invite Ph.D. applications in the fields of medieval art, especially with reference to intercultural encounters, and cultural difference/diversity in heritage and museums. My research circles around the intersection between Jewish studies, art history, medieval studies, and postcolonial and feminist theories. I teach about Medieval and Renaissance Art, especially its constructions of Otherness, and about Jewish Museums and the Jewish presence in Museums.
I studied in Freiburg (Zwischenprufung 1983), Jerusalem (exchange schholarship 1983/4) and Munich (MA 1988). After a term’s internship at the National Gallery of Art in Washington (1988) I returned to do a Ph.D. in Munich, and spent 1990-2 researching in Rome (Bibliotheca Hertziana and Vatican Library). After gaining a Ph.D. on the cultural and visual worlds of Francesco da Barberino, I became Frances Yates Scholar at the Warburg Institute (1993-5). I have taught at the University of Leeds since 1995, helping to set up a Centre for Jewish Studies, being part of the Institute for Medieval Studies, and teaching Medieval and Renaissance art.
My interests relate principally to questioning and widening the western canon. I research medieval manuscript illumination, Jewish art, and cross-cultural encounters.
I also have an interest in Jewish museums as touchstones of cultural diversity in museology.
I continue my earlier interest in Italian art of the age of Giotto and Dante.
I have been groping my way towards various non-iconographic approaches to the study of medieval art; at present, I am exploring the uses of postcolonial theories (supported by an AHRC research network grant, “Postcolonising the Medieval Image”, 2009-11).
My teaching about medieval art is research led and informed by my interdisciplinary interests in postcolonial theory, patronage, questions of representation and ideology. I am especially interested in the formation of European subjectivities through exclusion and othering (of Jews, Muslims, Africans, but also on the basis of gender). I have taught Islamic art, especially with a view on the various meeting points between “East” and “West” (Levant, Sicily/Maghreb, Andalusia). I also teach on various aspects of the Renaissance especially in Venice, including the formation of ghettoes.
I have been director of the BA History of Art (2010-2014). Since 2017, I have been Director of Postgraduate Research Studies. I am Director of the Centre for Jewish Studies.
Postcolonising the Medieval Image ([n.pub.], 2017),
Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/118806/
Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 336p,
Hebraica and Judaica from the Cecil Roth Collection (Leeds Brotherton Library, 1997),
Exhibition catalogue for the exhibition of the same title held at the University Galery, Leeds, researched and curated by E. Frojmovic and Frank Felsenstein, 1997. ISBN 0902 45099
© 2015 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. The miniature of the eschatological banquet of the righteous in paradise pictured at the end of the Ambrosian Bible is read here through the lens of a cultural history or histoire des mentalités. The banquet motif is interpreted as a symbolic representation of transcendent order, by means of a bricolage of preexisting images and iconographies of social order. Ultimately, the eschatological setting of the aristocratic banquet suggests a polemical critique of a society that excluded Jews, and a vision of the courtly, exclusionary hierarchies of aristocratic Europe triumphantly subverted.
‘A Short Art History of Allosemitism: Judaism and Christian Art (review of Judaism and Christian Art: Aesthetic Anxieties from the Catacombs to Colonialism, eds Herbert L. Kessler and David Nirenberg, University of Pennsylvania Press 2011)’, H-Net Judaic 2013,
‘Jewish scribes and Christian illuminators: Interstitial encounters and cultural negotiation’, Medieval Mediterranean, 81 (2009), 281-305,
‘Giotto's Circumspection’, The Art Bulletin, 89.2 (2007), 195-210,
The essay pursues the traces of a collaboration between Giotto and Francesco da Barberino in the Virtues and Vices cycle of the Arena Chapel, Padua. This link has implications for our understanding of iconographic invention and the concept of authorship in the early Trecento.
‘Giotto's circumspection (Giotto di Bondone)’, ART BULL, 89.2 (2007), 195-+,
‘Jewish identity in modern art history’, J JEWISH STUD, 52.1 (2001), 188-189,
‘The 'Perfect Scribe' and an Early Engraved Esther Scroll’, None, 23.1 (1997), 68-80,
The article presents an unpublished Esther scroll in the British Library. Posits that it matches a now lost blessings sheet published before WWII. Identifies its illustrations as coloured engravings. Identifies these as recycled from the engraved frames in a calligraphy manual called Il Perfetto Scrittore, 1570/1. These engraved frames are signed by book illustrator Andrea Marelli, whose identity is confirmed and further oeuvre presented. The dating of this earliest datable illustrated Esther scroll is posited as between 1571 and 1575, in which latter year the second edition of the Perfetto Scrittore was published without Marelli's frames. The essay contributes to our understanding of the Mannerist origins of an extremely popular genre, the illustrated Esther Scroll.
‘From Naples to Istanbul: the Woodcuts in the Earliest Illustrated Printed Haggadah’, The Library, 18 (1996), 87-109,
Italian/Turkish influences in early illuminated Haggadah.
‘Giotto's Allegories of Justice and the Commune in the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua: a Reconstruction’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, LIX (1996), 24-47,
Reconstruction of the lost paintings by Giotto in Padua
‘Christian Illuminators, Jewish Patrons, and the Gender of the Jewish Book’, in Ars Judaica; Volume 14, ed. by Rodov I, Rajner M and Schrijver E, Ars Judaica: The Bar-Ilan Journal of Jewish Art (Liverpool: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization in association with Liverpool University, 2018), 14,
Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/108832/
‘Neighbouring and mixta in thirteenth-century Ashkenaz’, in Postcolonising the Medieval Image (Routledge, 2017),
The essay interprets the earliest illuminated hebrew manuscripts from Ashkenaz in a postcolonial framework.
‘Inscribing Piety in Late-Thirteenth-Century Perpignan’, in The Late Medieval Hebrew Book in the Western Mediterranean: Hebrew Manuscripts and Incunabula in Context, ed. by del Barco J, Études sur le judaïsme médiéval (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 65, 107-147,
DOI: 10.1163/9789004306103_007, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/86485/
The essay continues my long-term quest to understand the involvement of high-status patrons in the actual writing of Hebrew manuscripts in medieval Aragon and its neighbouring polities. The signed scribe of BNF hebr. 7 is "unmasked" as an amateur scribe by means of the analysis of the errors he committed. This tabulation of errors leads to a reconsideration of the act of writing as a performance of piety.
‘The Patron as Scribe and the Performance of Piety in Perpignan during the Kingdom of Majorca’, in Patronage, Production, and Transmission of Texts in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Cultures, ed. by Alfonso E and Decter J (Brepols, 2014),
Preliminary thoughts on a special case of a patron: the patron-scribe
‘Translating Jerusalem: Jewish Authenticators of the Cross’, in Jerusalem As Narrative Space / Erzahlraum Jerusalem, ed. by Hoffmann A and Wolf G, Visualizing the Middle Ages (Brill Academic Publishers, 2012),
The essay introduces a novel category of "Jewish witness", that of the authenticator. The authenticator is an ambiguous figure, a Jewish protagonist in a narrative that disavows Judaism at the same time as it marks this protagonist as Jewish. This collection of essays discusses the complex entanglements between Jerusalem, as a continuously redefined space, and her narratives, viewed from broad methodological and interdisciplinary perspectives.
‘Translating Jerusalem: Jewish authenticators of the cross’, in Jerusalem as narrative space: Erzählraum Jerusalem, ed. by Hoffmann A and Wolf G, Visualizing the Middle Ages (Brill, 2012),
The essay suggests that in a True Cross legend featuring a Jewish protagonist Judas as authenticator of the true cross, the marking of this person as Jewish only crystallises in the 12th century, and leads to uneasiness regarding his status in the narrative.
‘Jewish Mudejarismo and the Invention of Tradition’, in Late Medieval Jewish Identities - Iberia and Beyond, ed. by Caballero-Navas C and Alfonso E (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010),
‘Early Ashkenazic Prayer Books and their Christian Illuminators’, in Crossing Borders: Hebrew Maunuscripts as a Meeting-Place of Cultures, ed. by Van Boxell P and Arndt S (Oxford: Boddleian, 2009),
‘Jewish scribes and Christian illuminators – Interstitial Encounters and Cultural Negotation’, in Between Judaism and Christianity : art historical essays in honor of Elisheva (Elisabeth) Revel-Neher, ed. by Kogman-Appel K and Meyer M (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 0-0,
This is an experimental essay, at an early stage of the Migratory Aesthetics project (CATH & ASCA symposia) trying out Hamid Naficyfs concept of gaccented cinemah on medieval jewish visual art. It is part of my larger project of using the Jewish internal other in medieval europe in oder to postcolonise the study of pre-modern art (¨ research group Postcolonial Visualities).
‘Taking Little Jesus to School in two 13th Century Latin Psalters from South Germany’, in Beyond the Yellow Badge: New Approaches to Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism in Medieval and Early Modern Visual Culture, ed. by Merback M (Brill, 2007), 87-117,
This essay has to be seen in the context of the book – an innovatively conceived collection that tries out to qualify the unreflexive paradigm of “medieval anti-semitism”. My essay tries out the notion of ‘the Jew’ as trope in a medieval field. I argue that the ostensibly anti-Jewish figure of the Jewish school serves an inner-Christian polemic about the aims and means of Christian education.
‘Reframing Gender in Medieval Jewish Images of Circumcision’, in Framing the family: narrative and representation in the medieval and early modern periods, ed. by Voaden R and Wolfthal D, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2005), 221-243,
This essay is part of my ongoing research into circumcision as a cultural as well as physical marker of Jewish difference in medieval and early modern Europe (see also “Illustrated Mohelbooks and Circumcision Liturgies” 1997, “Travelling to the Circumcision” 2003, and the forthcoming “The Origin of Illustrated Circumcision Books” and “Framing the Resisting Viewer in a medieval Jewish image of the Circumcision ritual”). It was solicited by the editors, who had invited me to speak at the international conference at Arizona State Univ that gave rise to the book (I lost this esteem indicator because of the baby factor – Alexander was born at the time of the conference). The essay is a critical response to the influential book La Vie Juive au Moyen Age by M. and T. Metzger. I criticise their approach to images as reflections of historical reality, especially since that reality is construed as identical to modern norms of what that reality should be like. Instead, I analyse the chosen images in terms of gender trouble within the medieval Jewish communities. Probably the first ever gender analysis carried out on medieval Jewish art.
‘Christian Travelers to the Circumcision: Early Modern Representations’, in The Covenant of Circumcision: New Perspectives on an Ancient Rite, ed. by Mark EW (Brandeis University Press, 2003), 128-141,
This essay is part of my ongoing research into circumcision as a cultural as well as physical marker of Jewish difference in medieval and early modern Europe (see also “Illustrated Mohelbooks and Circumcision Liturgies” 1997, “Gendered representations” 2005, and the forthcoming “The Origin of Illustrated Circumcision Books” and “Framing the Resisting Viewer in a medieval Jewish image of the Circumcision ritual”). I start by responding critically to Richard Cohen’s claim (Jewish Icons) that Montaigne wrote a benevolent description of the circumcision ritual. I then go on to supply the context to Montaigne’s travelogue: early modern Christian ethnographers and orientalists’s desire to witness and describe “the most ancient religious ritual”.
‘Buber in Basle, Schlosser in Sarajevo, Wischnitzer in Weimar: The Politics of Writing about Medieval Jewish Art’, in Imagining the self, imagining the other: visual representation and Jewish-Christian dynamics in the Middle Ages and early modern period, ed. by Frojmovic E (Leiden : Brill, 2002), 1-32,
This is a contribution to a cultural history of art history, or a political historiography of art. Also a contribution to medievalism, a fast growing area. The construction of Jewish art as an object of study serves as a case study of the implicatedness of the discipline in constructs of race and nation. While developing some historiographical ideas put forward by Margaret Olin, my essay is original in that it trains the spotlight onto the introjection of racialism and nationalism by Jewish scholars of art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This essay and “Messianic Politics”, while important in themselves, part of a collection in which I put forward an innovative concept, which has been clearly recognised in book reviews and other references. The proposition is for scholars working on anti-Jewish representations to join up with scholars researching Jewish art, and to engage fully with the tensions resulting from this confrontation.
‘Messianic politics in re-Christianized Spain: Images of the Sanctuary in Hebrew Bible manuscripts’, in Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other: Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period, ed. by Frojmovic E (Brill, 2002), 91-128,
Scholarship on Hebrew illuminated manuscripts has tended to be dominated by a fairly simplified iconographic methodology combined with Weitzmann’s philological method of filiation and search for archetypes. My essay disrupts this essentialist desire for continuity by insisting on the historically contingent cultural tensions between Jews and Christians in the area and time of production (Kingdom of Aragon, late 13th c) of this compact group of illuminated manuscripts. That’s why my essay is a methodological contribution to the field, which has to be seen as part of a whole represented by the book (see note above, “Buber in Basle”).
‘Jewish Ways of Reading the Illuminated Bible’, in JEWISH WAYS OF READING THE BIBLE (Journal of Semitic Studies Supplement 11 (ISSN 00224480)), ed. by Brooke GJ (Oxford University Press, Academic Division, 2000), 11, 230-253,
The essay/chapter argues for an interpretation of Hebrew bible illumination which locates meaning (and cultural identity) in reception, not in the artist or in iconographic tradition. Examples are the title page of the Schocken Bible and the Sanctuary double page in the Perpignan Bible.
‘Illustrated Mohelbooks and circumcision liturgies’, in Mappot-- blessed be who comes : the band of Jewish tradition, ed. by Friedlander E (Secolo Verlag, 1997),
Provides an introduction into the origins of the early modern genre of illustrated liturgy for the circumcision, from ca. 1600 onwards.
Hebraica and Judaica from the Cecil Roth Collection, ([n.pub.], [n.d.]),
Exhibition and catalogue of Hebraica and Judaica from the Cecil Roth Collection of th4 Brotherton Library, Leeds, reserached, organised and curated by E.Frojmovic
Research Projects & Grants
Postcolonising the Medieval Image
Jewish Museologies and the Politics of Display
The Archive after Cecil Roth: Jewish studies, cultural history and the Cecil Roth Collection
External Examinar, Manchester University
PhD & Postdoctoral Supervision
I would be happy to supervise PhDs on any the following topics: Jewish art, illuminated manuscripts, Medievalism and global renaissance, Postcolonial approaches to medieval art
Peter Gross z”l
Francesco da Barberino: text and image in the time of Dante and Giotto