Winged Image of the Divine: A Comparative Note on Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish Art in Early Modern Ukraine

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Rodov, Ilia
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The issue of divine providence and protection became topical in mid-17th-century Ukrainian lands. The Greek Orthodox Ruthenians living in the epicenter of the encounter between the Catholic West, Christian Orthodox East, Protestant North, and Muslim South, sought religious and political allies. The struggle of the Ukrainian Cossacks against the Catholics entailed aggression towards their Jewish neighbors as well. When contemplating divine intervention in their destiny, the Ukrainians and Jews similarly transmitted their ideas through a visual model that represented - symbolically or figuratively - the celestial patron as if physically protecting the people under his outstretched limbs. The iconography was not newly invented, but adopted from the art of the two empires flanking the Ukrainian lands: the Holy Roman Empire of the Habsburgs and the Muscovite Tsardom. Jews and Christians derived this metaphor from the same biblical sources: Exod. 19:4, which recounts God’s protection of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, “I bear you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself,” and Deut. 32:11, which allegorizes God’s providence as an image of the eagle who “stirs up her nest, flutters over her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, bears them on her wings.” Yet, in a departure from biblical discourse, both Christian and Jewish artists rendered the symbolic eagle as double-headed. Occasionally, Ukrainian artists also applied the symbolic protective wings to other divine figures. A comparison of the genesis and message of that imagery is the subject of this paper.
art, Jews, Jewish Art, Catholic Art, Orthodox Art, genesis, imagery, message, Divine, Ukraine, article
Rodov I. Winged Image of the Divine: a Comparative Note on Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish Art in Early Modern Ukraine / Ilia Rodov // Judaica Ukrainica : Annual Journal of Jewish Studies. - 2014. - Vol. 3. - P. 105-127.