Biblical Archaeology Review 40:4, July/August 2014

Parsing “The Parting” Painting: The Marriage of the Virgin

By Theodore H. Feder

More than two years ago Hershel Shanks rang me up about a new book he was preparing: Partings—How Judaism and Christianity Became Two, with individual chapters by some of the world’s leading scholars. I am an art historian with a strong interest in the relationship between the Early Church and Judaism. As I am also head of Art Resource, an extensive visual archive on the history of art, Hershel asked me to suggest some illustrations for the book.

I was glad to help him and proposed a number of images. However, Hershel, being the strong-willed person we all admire and love, rejected the image I most favored for inclusion. It is the one—and only—painting in the entire history of art that fully delineates the actual physical parting of the ways between the Church and Synagogue. Hershel rejected it on the not-unreasonable ground that the work was rather late, c. 1420, and therefore fell outside the normal purview of BAR.

The book is now out, and I can certainly attest to both its beauty and valuable contribution to the field. Being a bit persistent myself, however, I contacted Hershel and reminded him of the painting I had been touting. Perhaps out of fatigue or to indulge me, he relented.

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