Art can be a powerful force in shaping the way we see and think about the world: pictures craft our ideas of beauty and ugliness, good and bad, power and weakness. This lecture traces how medieval Christian images of Jews, originally designed to aid religious devotions, made Christians look at Jews with new curiosity and interest, and drew their attention to previously unnoticed aspects of Jewish life and looks. As images of Jews evolved from benign but outdated Hebrews to caricatured usurers and demonic sorcerers, Christian society developed new – and increasingly hostile – ideas about and policies toward Jews, whose effects have endured to this day.
Sara Lipton is Professor of History at the State University of New York, Stony Brook and a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America the Royal Historical Society (UK). She is currently a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. Her most recent book is Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography (2014).