"Heaven on Earth"
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC has just opened a new exhibition Heaven on Earth: Manuscript Illuminations from the National Gallery of Art. It includes documents from France, Germany, Austria, Bohemia, the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy — many of which are rare and haven’t been exhibited since 1975.
If you find this interesting, you might want to visit the site for our program “Preserving Words and Worlds,” which includes a slew of video and images from our production trip to the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in Collegeville, Minnesota.
(image: Detail of Belbello da Pavia’s The Annunciation to the Virgin, from the National Gallery’s online archives)
The New Year (for Trees)
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
As we’ve mentioned here before, one of the hardest parts of the production process can be deciding what to leave out. For me, sorting through over 70 ancient woodcut illustrations from Scott-Martin Kosofsky’s The Book of Customs for this slideshow was definitely an excercise in leaving things out.
Just as it was necessary to leave out many of the images, there was also wealth of information about the customs they depicted that needed to be pared down into succinct captions. One illustration that intrigued me more than the others was Tu b’Shevat, or “The New Year for Trees.” A New Year for Trees? I was intrigued, so I looked to see what The Book of Customs had to say about it:
This was the date on which the year was determined for tithing of fruit trees during Temple times. Since a tenth of the fruit was obligated to be given to the Levites and Temple each year, it was necessary to calculate from a measurable turning point in the growing season.
At first I was disappointed by this description — to me it sounded like celebrating tax day as a holiday. But as I read further, Tu b’Shevat revealed itself as a great testament to the ability for customs to take on a life of their own. It turns out that many traditions have been built around the holiday — from simply eating fruit to reciting passages in the Bible, Talmud, and Kabbalah related to fruit. More recently, Tu b’Shevat is interperated by many as a kind of Jewish Arbor Day — an occasion for celebrating the environment, planting trees, and raising ecological awareness.
The truth is that many of the customs shown in this slideshow followed a similar historical trajectory, becoming abstracted from their original purpose — and of course, Judaism doesn’t hold a monopoly on this sort of evolution. What kind of traditions have you observed that have expanded out from their origins — for New Years, for trees, or otherwise?
A Bible for the “Non Card-Carrying Christian”
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
The FontFeed showcased a provocative and, in my opinion, a refreshingly dynamic take on the cover art for a contemporary edition of the Bible. The colors are vibrant and engaging, which reminds people that the Bible is a living text pulsing with lessons for 21st-century readers. And, the depictions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden are playful and allusive, meant to conjure more questions than to answer them with overly weighty symbolism that would have bogged down the spaciousness of the art work. If you’re interested in opining on what the graphic designers missed or got right, Stand Firm, a blog devoted to “traditional Anglicanism in America,” has an active comment thread worth reading.
As Carl Rush, the founder of the UK-based design agency Crush that created the cover, points out, their intention was to make it the “must have accessory for any non card carrying Christian.” My regret? I can’t find a place where I can actually buy the tome. Help!
Here’s the image unadorned with titling and text. Click for better detail:
(Images courtesy of Crush Design & Art Direction)